The Fort Mill boy's basketball team lost a heartbreaking, hard-fought match against York High School in the third-place game of the Jackets' preseason tournament Saturday.
The 57-55 loss capped an 0-2 performance in the tournament, which included teams from York, Melbourne, Australia and Hoggard High School, which defeated Fort Mill 48-37 in Friday's opening round.
"We played great defense, holding them to 48 points," Jackets head coach Bailey Jackson said. "Hoggard played really good defense. We just need to be a little less apprehensive on offense."
The Fort Mill offense showed up to kick off Saturday's game, led by senior point guard Andrew Parra. Parra pushed the offense and led the Jackets to a 27-22 halftime lead with 10 first-half points.
The Fort Mill defense stepped up and blocked two shots early in the third quarter to get the crowd into the game, but York fought its way back during a fast-paced high-energy quarter to tie the game at 35. York built its largest lead, 47-42, with just under four minutes to play but the Jackets tied it up at 49 with 1:30 to go.
The Cougars had too much in the end and pulled ahead in the final minute.
"We played well in spurts, but we've got to learn how to play 32 minutes of basketball," Jackson said after the loss.
Senior Rashawn Dupree led the team with 15 points, Parra finished with 12 points, and sophomore Jaquan Dupree had 9.
"The defense has been a focus this year. It's getting better and we're causing more turnovers," Jaquan said. "We still have a lot of practicing to do."
One bright spot for the Jackets- sophomore guard Rion Heriot was named to the All-Tournament team.
"It feels good. I've worked hard and I'm glad the work paid off," Heriot said. He added that while the team still needs to improve, he felt like they would be ready for this week's season opener against Rock Hill High School.
"We need to work on our mistakes," Heriot said. "The offense is coming along. We just have to be patient."
In the championship matchup, Australian team Box Hill beat Hoggard 61-52 in the second stop of its 21-day tour. The team played in Hilton Head earlier in the week and will head to Spartanburg this weekend. They will spend another week and-a-half in the Carolinas before flying out to Hawaii to end their trip.
Players on the Aussie team commented on how much faster the American game is.
"It's more dynamic. Having no shot clock makes a big difference," said Dejan Kostur, who just finished his senior year at Box Hill. "It's a little less structured here. We run a lot more plays."
Myles Ashton, the Director of Sports at Box Hill, accompanied the team on the trip and said the students are enjoying the games but also taking their play seriously.
"The reason we've come over here is to expose (the players) to other colleges, a way for them to continue basketball and get a college education as well," he said.
Ashton said universities in Australia focus completely on academics, and athletes who continue sports after high school transition straight onto club teams.
Box Hill head coach Kevin Goorjian said he typically has one or two players every year who express interest in continuing basketball in America.
"This year Josh Wilcher, our point guard, can play- and we have a couple bigs that are alright," Goorjian said. "For the ones who are really serious, it's good for them to come over here."
"That's what this trip is all about," Wilcher said. "Just trying to get my name out there."
Wilcher and his teammates said they are enjoying the cultural experience in America as well. They said the food is a lot different (more fast food here) and they really appreciated the chance to stay with the Fort Mill families for a few nights and get to know them.
The Box Hill girls team also won their side of the tournament, defeating Fort Mill in the championship game 71-33.