South Pointe unable to stand up to Hurricanes' strength

PIEDMONT -- South Pointe's boys basketball was rocked by some Hurricanes on Saturday night and was knocked out of the Class AAAA Upper State playoffs.

The Stallions went into the game on a roll, having handed No. 1 Fort Mill its first loss last Friday and following that up with a with a first-round playoff win over Dorman.

They ran into a hotter team in Wren, which began a run late in the first half that carried over into the third quarter that left the Hurricanes with a 40-23 lead, which they rode to a 65-43 victory.

Wren, 17-10, advanced to the third round and plays at North Augusta, a 53-42 winner over Northwestern on Wednesday for a berth in the Upper State championship game next Friday at Clemson's Littlejohn Coliseum.

"I had no idea we'd make it this far when the season began,'' Wren coach Fran Campbell said. "We lost some early game, but the losses were against good teams. We rebounded because we started playing together and settled on a rotation.''

The knock going in was that Wren was soft, that the Hurricanes had excellent outside shooters but shied away from any type of physical game inside.

Beg your pardon?

Wren took the ball at the Stallions from the get-go and fought South Pointe toe-to-toe for inside position. The Stallions tied the game 8-8 late in the opening quarter and went ahead 11-8 on Mike Douglas' 3-pointer from the right wing.

The Hurricanes ended the quarter with a pair of D.J. Brown 3-pointers for a 14-11 lead and never trailed again.

The Stallions tied the game at 23 in the second quarter on another Douglas 3-pointer, but it came just before Wren staged the decisive run that ended up being the difference.

The Hurricanes closed out the half with a jumper from Sebastian Koch and a follow by Demetrius Woodruff that pushed them ahead 27-23 at the break.

"We talked at the half and I told the guys we were doing well taking the ball to South Pointe, but we needed to step it up and speed up the game,'' Campbell said. "We came out and drove the lane for the first three baskets and took control for good.

"We are tall and skinny, our guys don't look good or like a good team. But they play off each other and do what we ask. South Pointe, a lot of their guys play football and they look like athletes.''

Counting the last for points of the first half and the first seven of the second, Wren put six more on the board and completed a 17-point run for a 40-23 lead.

Led by Stephon Gilmore, who scored 18 points, South Pointe tried to come back in the second half, but every time the Stallions put on a small run, the Hurricanes came back with one a little bigger.

There were several factors in deciding the outcome. Wren owned the boards, led by 6-foot-6 bookends Jonathan Bozymowski and Koch.

South Pointe had problems shooting and handling the ball. The Stallions had 22 turnovers, 15 in the first half. They hit 12-of 36 shots from the field, but were outshot by Wren 56-36.

"Our plan was to take it to them," Bozymowski said. "He told us people were talking about us not playing physical and that South Pointe would try to take advantage of us.

"It came down to our big run. We were just starting the second half and it got us pumped up. And it's very exciting to be one game away from playing for the Upper State championship.''

South Pointe finished its season at 18-7 in only its second season of varsity basketball. The Stallions finished second in Region 3-AAAA behind Fort Mill.

"I hate to see it end, but we had a good season,'' South Pointe coach Dwayne Hartsoe said. "We didn't play well in the first half. We played bad in the second.

"Our guys showed me a lot. We have all but two players back next year. I can say right now that two of our goals will be to work harder and go further.''