FLORENCE — Goose Creek coach Blake Hall remembers a time this season when his team struggled from the free-throw line.
That wasn’t the case Friday as the Gators went 33-of-36 from line in defeating Sumter, 57-47, in the Class AAAA Lower State championship at the Florence Civic Center. With the win, Goose Creek will play Irmo for the state championship next Friday. The Gators are looking for their first title since 2009.
“Our free-throw shooting has come a long way since the first of the year,” Hall said. “We were shooting about 50 percent from the line early in the year but the kids work at it everyday and were shooting with confidence as the season has gone along.”
Getting to play for a state in basketball is a bit of redemption for the Gators, who were denied to play for one during the football season because of the use of an ineligible player.
“I am playing for all my football teammates,” said guard Dontez Bennamon, a quarterback on the Gators football team. “We are trying to win a state championship for them.”
Bennamon was a big catalyst for the Gators on Friday. The guard hit 19-of-19 from the charity stripe after shooting just 2-of-17 from the field and finished with a game-high 24 points.
Bennamon did most of his damage in the second half as he hit 15-of-15 from the line as the Gators were able to take control of the game.
“He is as good of a guard as you can find on the high school level,” Hall said of Bennamon. “He had a tough first half but really played through and got us going in the second half.”
Goose Creek, which trailed 10-5 after the first quarter, went on an 11-0 during a four-minute stretch from late in the third quarter until three first three minutes of the fourth to lead 41-28 with less than six minutes to go.
The Gamecocks tried to get back in using their pressure defense but Goose Creek was able to break and then cashed in from the line.
With the win, Hall improved to 9-0 all-time in the playoffs as a head coach. The former Pinewood Prep star coached North Charleston to the Class 2A state title and has the Gators within a game of winning one in his first season at Goose Creek.
Chris Singleton added 13 points for the Gators, 10 coming in the second half.
Anthony Moses led Sumter with 12 points and nine rebounds. The Gamecocks finish their season at 18-11.
Goose Creek (57): Patrick 2, Bennamon 24, Singleton 13, Robinson 7, McElveen 5, Abdallah 4, Evans 2.
Sumter (47): Kyles 9, Butler 6, McBride 2, White 8, Rembert 4, Holloway 6, Moses 12.
JOHN D. RUSSELL/MORNING NEWS Goose Creek's Chris Singleton looks for the open man as Goose Creek takes on Sumter on Friday, February 22, 2013, during the AAAA South Carolina High School League (SCHSL) lower state championships at the Florence Civic Center. Tournament play continues today starting at 11 am.×
Goose Creek’s Jordan McElveen tries to put up the shot against Sumter’s Anthony Moses on Friday night at the Florence Civic Center.×
JOHN D. RUSSELL/MORNING NEWS Goose Creek's Kameron Robinson puts up the shot as Goose Creek takes on Sumter on Friday, February 22, 2013, during the AAAA South Carolina High School League (SCHSL) lower state championships at the Florence Civic Center. Tournament play continues today starting at 11 am.×