FLORENCE - With only five seniors on the 17-man roster, the Wando boys basketball team's future is certainly bright. But coach David Eaton and his Warriors live in the present.
And the present moment is monumental. The Warriors are a win away from an elusive Class AAAA state championship.
The Warriors reached the ultimate March Madness moment for the first time in school history with a 54-41 victory over Sumter on Friday night in the Lower State championship in front of about 1,200 fans at the Florence Civic Center.
The Warriors (24-4) will play Hillcrest for all the marbles on March 8 at the Colonial Life Arena in Columbia. Hillcrest edged Irmo, 54-52, in the Upper State championship. Sumter finished with a 19-6 record.
"This means so much," Eaton said. "We're going to celebrate tonight. We're happy to be there, but we want to be more than happy. We want to win."
Wando led 15-14 after the first quarter, and 24-21 at halftime thanks to an off-balance 3-pointer by Amp Moore that went through the net at the buzzer.
"I had confidence in my shot," Moore said. "Coach tells us to have confidence in everything we throw up. I do."
Said Eaton: "It's fun to see someone do that. It's great to see teenagers hugging and high-fiving. It gave us momentum."
Jamez Rogers, an all-state selection, started the scoring in the second half with a three-point play the old-fashioned way to push the lead to 27-21. The Warriors' Taylor Majewski hit a 3-pointer from out front at the 6:58 mark of the third quarter and Wando's lead expanded to 30-21. Rogers scored on a rebound to make the lead double-digits, 32-21.
The Warriors outscored the Gamecocks, 11-4, in the decisive third quarter with the sophomore Rogers accounting for seven of the Warriors' points. He finished with 15.
"That's the way he is. He's hit shots in big moments," Eaton said of Rogers' clutch points in the third quarter. "He's been that way all year."
Andrew Glover was the only other Warriors player in double figures with 11.
Micha McBride scored 13 points, hitting four 3-pointers. But he scored only three points in the second half.
The Warriors held Sumter to 20 points in the second half.
"It was all defense," Eaton said. "It was ugly on offense. At halftime, we weren't playing well and I told them to start the game over mentally."
Sumter 14 7 4 16 - 41
Wando 15 9 11 19 - 54
Sumter (41): Butler 2, McBride 14, Rembert 4, White 5, Parker 6, Caldwell 1, Moore 4, Kershaw 5.
Wando (54): Behrens 5, Glover 11, Rogers 15, Stewart 3, Delongchamps 1, Moore 6, Majewski 9, Pegram 6.
Records: Wando 24-4, Sumter 19-6.