COLUMBIA - The Class AAAA boys state championship basketball game was billed as a matchup of Wando's size versus the speed and athleticism of Hillcrest.
In the end, size won out and the Warriors captured the school's first basketball state championship with a 65-50 victory at the Colonial Life Arena on Friday night.
Sophomore Jamez Rogers poured in 25 points, junior Amp Moore scored 13 and senior Andrew Glover added 11 as the Warriors used a blitzing third quarter to pull away for the win. The Warriors (25-4) shot 68 percent from the field in the second half to finish at 49 percent for the game.
"Their speed got to us a little bit early on, but we settled in and really started to execute on the offensive end and rebound the basketball," Wando coach David Eaton said. "They (Hillcrest) gambled a lot and we were strong with the ball. We played Wando basketball."
Wando overcame a slow shooting start and connected on 7 of 11 shots from beyond the arc in the second half while dominating the boards, 48-26. Junior center Matt Pegram collected 15 boards and junior Taylor Majewski added eight.
But it was Rogers' performance that had the arena buzzing for most of the night.
"For him to show up and play the way he played on this stage, wow, what a performance," said Eaton. "I don't think he realizes how young he is. He just plays the game at a very high level."
Neither team shot well in the opening half, but Wando was a little better late in the second quarter to build a 20-17 halftime advantage. The Warriors shot 30.4 percent from the floor but held a 25-13 advantage on the boards.
Hillcrest shot only 22 percent in the first half but did force Wando into 12 first-half turnovers to keep it close.
Just as they did in the lower state finals against Sumter last weekend, the Warriors made the third period the decisive quarter. Wando outscored Hillcrest, 25-13, to open up a 45-30 advantage heading into the fourth quarter.
"Unbelievable, the way we played in the third quarter," said Eaton. "I don't know what it is about this team and the third quarter. We go into every game pretty focused, but something clicks for us in the third. We have some smart, skilled players and they know what to do. I'm sure glad that trend continued tonight."
Hillcrest entered the game allowing an average of 38 points per game, and the Warriors eclipsed that number late in the third. Consecutive 3-pointers from Glover, Moore and Rogers over a 90-second span pushed Wando to a double-digit lead midway through the period, and the Warriors never looked back.
Glover's second 3-pointer of the half gave Wando a 50-32 lead with 6:33 remaining in the game, but the Warriors got a bit sloppy, failing to score for nearly four minutes. Hillcrest used an 8-0 run and was able to cut into the lead, and a traditional 3-point play by Hooker made it 50-40 with 3:04 remaining.
Majewski silenced the run with five quick points, pushing Wando's lead to 55-40 with 2:20 remaining in the game. By the time Glover's corner 3 with 45 seconds remaining swished through the net, Wando's bench was celebrating with a 64-48 lead.
"We have five seniors and it feels so good to send those guys out with a ring," said Rogers amidst the celebration. "I just wanted to do my part. As the game went on, I got more comfortable, but everyone on the team was ready for this. A lot of people didn't know about Wando basketball, but they all know now."