Holding a five-point lead with 4:30 to play, the Fort Dorchester Patriots went scoreless for the remainder of the game and suffered a 55-48 upset on Wednesday night to visiting South Florence, in a first-round Class AAAA Lower State playoff matchup.
Fort Dorchester’s season, which included a region 8-AAAA title, ended at 18-5 while South Florence improved to 12-9 and advances to play South Aiken on Saturday.
The Patriots led for most of the game, taking a 48-43 lead on Deon Joyner’s basket with 4:30 to play. South Florence point guard Dominique Small scored nine consecutive points in the final 3:10, including six consecutive free throws, to lead the Bruins.
“It’s a disappointing way to end, very disappointing,” Fort Dorchester coach Leon Wheaton said. “Our kids played their hearts out. We made a few mistakes, had some defensive lapses in the fourth quarter and that’s unfortunate. But we left it all on the floor. It’s a tough way to see it end for these guys.”
Small and teammate Justin Ford paced South Florence with 19 points each.
Fort Dorchester’s effort was led by senior Mason Snype, who scored 18 points. Junior guard Adonicas Sanders added 16.
After starting slowly, the Patriots put things together late in the first quarter and led, 16-11, after one period. Sanders’ layup and free throw just before the halftime buzzer gave Fort Dorchester a 27-21 advantage.
South Florence grabbed a late third quarter lead but Sanders again managed to score and get fouled with one second left, converting the free throw for a 39-37 Patriots lead heading into the fourth.
After Joyner gave the Patriots a five-point edge, Ford and Small hit back-to-back 3-pointers to put the Bruins in front, 49-48, with 3:10 to play.
“(Ford) is a ballplayer and he hit some big shots,” Wheaton said.
A bit of controversy arose late in the game. With 1:40 remaining, Sanders appeared to score inside on an offensive rebound to give Fort Dorchester a 50-49 lead. The basket, however, was negated after Sanders was called for lowering his shoulder, resulting in a charge. An unhappy Wheaton disagreed vehemently with the call and was still bitter after the game.
“That’s not a call you make in a playoff game, or in any game I would say,” the coach said. “It certainly was a big call in the game. We just didn’t seem to get a break tonight. I don’t want to be given anything. Make us earn it, but don’t take it away from my kids. We made our share of mistakes and missed some shots we normally make but that was a huge call.”
Small converted a pair of free throws with 1:16 left for a 51-48 lead and Fort Dorchester missed several consecutive shots in the final minute. Small hit a pair of freebies with 26 seconds left and added two more with 12 seconds left for the final margin.
SOUTH FLORENCE 55,
FORT DORCHESTER 48
SOUTH FLORENCE (55) — Dominique Small 19, Justin Ford 19, Rivers 8, James 3, Burch 4, Cabbagestalk 2.
FORT DORCHESTER (48) — Mason Snype 18, Adonicas Sanders 16, Joyner 7, B. Sanders 3, Ladson 2, Bryant 2.