FLORENCE — It was a basketball game that capped a week of life experiences and lessons, heartache, disbelief and loss.
The Bishop England girls defeated Kingstree, 55-41, in the Class AA Lower State championship Saturday. The Kingstree girls suffered a tough defeat, but now comes the hard part. They say goodbye to their coach, Sonya Burgess, at her funeral today.
“Today was hard, but that’s going to be rough,” interim coach Theodis Faison said. “I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like.”
The Kingstree players, students and community were stunned Monday night when Burgess was killed in a hit-and-run wreck. School officials decided to let the team play Tuesday night and the Jaguars beat Lake City to advance and face the Bishops.
Jaguars players and fans wore T-shirts in memory of Burgess that read, “Coaching from above.” Approximately 5,000 fans watched the game at the Florence Civic Center and most were there to cheer for the Jaguars (22-7).
“The girls came out to play,” Faison said. “A lot of people didn’t believe in Kingstree. We beat the No. 2 and 3 teams. We just couldn’t beat the No. 1 team today.”
Bishop England, the defending Class AA state champ, will play Keenan at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Colonial Life Arena in Columbia.
The Bishops (23-3) are 51-3 the last two seasons.
“I don’t think it has hit me yet,” Bishop England coach Paul Runey said. “I don’t think it will until the ride home. Our girls worked hard for this, pushed themselves. It wasn’t our best basketball game, but the effort was there.”
Runey talked to his team about Kingstree’s tumultuous week.
“I got to meet coach Burgess’ husband when he came down and scouted us in out first playoff game,” Runey said. “I feel bad for him and the team. I told the girls this was a part of life. I also told them they deserved this as much as anybody. I told them the crowd would pull for Kingstree, and it did.”
The Bishops led 28-19 at halftime and enjoyed a double-digit lead in the third quarter when the Jaguars finally made a move. They sliced the Bishops’ lead to 36-32, but Michele Boykin hit a 3-point goal and came up with a steal that led to Michelle Lussier’s fast-break bucket that pushed the lead to 41-32. Kingstree couldn’t recover.
Boykin led all scorers with 21 points.
“Michele is a player,” Runey said. “She makes the plays. When the game is on the line, her teammates look to her to make the play. I don’t think I’ve ever coached someone who plays as hard as Michele. She goes after it for 32 minutes.”
Mary Harriet Moore added 13 points for the Bishops and Ellie James chipped in with 10.
Latoya Jones led Kingstree with 14 points.
Bishop England (55): Kiernan 2, Ellie James 11, Michele Boykin 21, Mary Harriett Moore 13, Lussier 8
Kingstree (41): Brittany Williams 10, Latoya Jones 14, McCrea 2, Chandler 5, Peterson 5, Palsely 5
Bishop England 12 16 14 13—55
Kingstree 9 10 13 9—41
Records: Bishop England 23-3. Next: Bishop England in Class AA state championship vs. Keenan Saturday 2 p.m.