In Indian Land, hosting their first home playoff game in 13 years, it would be understandable if there were some pregame jitters on the part of the Indian Land Warriors boy’s basketball team.
However, not letting those jitters get to them was another story as Indian Land (12-7, 10-3 Region 3-A) fell to Williston-Elko 63-59 in the opening round of the Class A playoffs.
The Warriors seemed to be a step behind the Blue Devils (11-14, 9-5 Region 4-A) the majority of the game. Indian Land wouldn’t let Williston-Elko pull away and didn’t allow them to breathe a sigh of relief until the final buzzer sounded.
Williston-Elko, who finished third in their region, had three players score in double figures and was led by Antonio “Buster” Walker, who scored 16 points, down from his 24 points per game average.
Rokeem Williams scored 15 points and Ondrew Bellinger added 14 for Williston-Elko.
Indian Land jumped out to a small 4-0 lead to open the game, but then allowed the Blue Devils to go on a 15-2 run forcing the Warriors to call a time out and make some changes.
The Warriors had four first quarter turnovers before the time out, which worked and allowed Indian Land to pull within 10 at 24-14 after the first quarter.
“Being here for the first time, there were some jitters,” said Indian Land head coach Nate Smith. “They didn’t know what to expect.”
Only the Warriors’ Justin Gordon had any playoff experience coming into the game, and that was also a first round game a couple years ago.Despite the jitters, Indian Land made a game of it in the second quarter and held Williston-Elko to just seven points. The Warriors free-throw shooting kept them in the game as the outscored the Blue Devils in the period 13-7, with nine of those points coming from the charity stripe. Williston-Elko struggled from the field in the quarter shooting just 23 percent (3-13).
Down by just four in at the half at 31-27, the second half was a cat and mouse game as each team scored exactly 32 points each. Every time the Warriors would score, Williston-Elko would match them so it seemed.
Indian Land was led by Trey Harvey, who scored 15 points, 10 of which came in the first half. In the second half, Harvey struggled getting only four shots off. The Warriors Trey McKinney stepped up in the third quarter and scored eight of his nine points, by hitting two big 3-pointers.The Warriors pulled within one point of Williston-Elko on three occasions and even tied the game at 47 with under a minute left in the period.Stopping the Blue Devils’ Bellinger in the period was too much for Indian Land as he scored nine of his 14 points in the quarter.
Again down by four to start the final period, Indian Land could never seem to stop Williston-Elko defensively. The Blue Devils pulled ahead by six points at 56-50 with just over 5:30 left in the game.
Indian Land fought back again to pull within two at 61-59 on a 3-pointer by Jay Edge, but misses down the stretch hurt the Warriors chance to get the win.
“We were inconsistent in the fourth,” Smith said. “We missed executing and the mistakes were big.”