A perfect run through Region 7-AAAA, and a 19-win season, did nothing to ease the pain for James Island boys basketball coach Stan Wilkins after his Trojans dropped a 53-49 overtime decision to visiting Carolina Forest in a second-round Class AAAA Lower State playoff game on Saturday night.
James Island, a Lower State finalist last season, rallied late to tie the game at 39 when junior guard Jordan McDaniel sent the game into overtime with a long 3-pointer in the final seconds of regulation. However, the Trojans were unable to sustain the momentum and Carolina Forest iced the victory at the free throw line.
Carolina Forest, 18-7, advanced to a third-round matchup at Irmo on Tuesday.
“We let one get away,” a dejected Wilkins said. “We had control of the game. We let it get away in the second half. Then we fight back and get to overtime and had the momentum but we just were undisciplined in overtime. We did some uncharacteristic things and that was disappointing.
“But credit Carolina Forest. They came in here and we had them down but they kept fighting back. They’re a good, well-coached basketball team. Tonight they were just better.”
Both teams struggled from the floor in the first half, due in large part to solid defense.
Carolina Forest held a modest 9-7 lead after one quarter and both teams went scoreless for nearly five minutes of the second quarter before the Trojans closed the second with a 9-0 run to grab an 18-11 halftime advantage. McDaniel scored five points during the run, including a pair of free throws with no time left on the clock.
James Island opened up its largest lead at 20-11 early in the third quarter, but the Panthers went on a 10-1 run to tie the game at 21 with 2:35 left in the period. The Trojans held a 27-25 lead heading into the fourth before Carolina Forest scored the first nine points of the fourth quarter to lead 34-27 with five minutes left.
Vince Cole, who finished with 18 points, completed a three-point play for James Island with 4:29 remaining but the Panthers maintained a 38-33 lead with 1:33 to play.
Jack Jordan hit a three to make it 38-36 and the Panthers missed a pair of free throws with 41 seconds left. Carolina Forest missed five of eight free throws in the final two minutes, setting the stage for McDaniel’s game-tying shot. McDaniel finished with 15 points.
In the overtime, Carolina Forest scored the first six points and led 45-39, despite a continuing struggle from the charity stripe. Finally, however, junior forward Damon McDowell calmed the storm, hitting eight consecutive free throws to maintain the edge. McDowell was 11 of 13 from the line and led all scorers with 25 points.
“We had a great season but this is definitely a hard pill to swallow right now,” Wilkins said.