FLORENCE — A stirring comeback. A stunning end.
The Dillon High School boys basketball team rallied from a double-digit deficit against Timberland and got within 69-66 on a 3-pointer by Jallian Williams late in the fourth quarter.
But, the Wildcats’ Raheem McClam was whistled for a foul. Dillon teammate Rakeem Fletcher, after reacting to that, was then whistled for a technical foul.
Facing two trips to the free-throw line and keeping possession, the Wolves made two foul shots, followed by two made free throws on that extra possession by Ra Anderson, and they pulled away — adding three more foul shots — to win, 76-66, in Saturday’s Class AA Lower State final at the Florence Civic Center.
“It doesn’t bother me,” said Timberland coach Jerome Stewart, whose team is 23-5 and plays Abbeville for the state title at 4 p.m. next Saturday at Columbia’s Colonial Life Arena. “My nerves were burned out from earlier in the season when we kept missing free throws. So, the more we miss, the more we hit. So, we just learn to live with it and be positive. So, when God’s on your side, everything works out.”
Dillon (21-6) trailed 36-25 at halftime and 59-47 going into the fourth quarter.
Then, coach Mike McRae Jr.’s Wildcats started their comeback with an 8-0 run to get within 67-63. After Williams’ 3-pointer cut the deficit to three, the game’s ultimate turning point happened.
“Like I told my players, we have to control what we can control,” McRae said. “We can’t control what the officials do. We pretty much have to do what we do and it seems like every time we had a run to get back in the game, something was called and it wasn’t in our favor.”
Stewart perhaps put the game’s most pivotal play in perspective.
“That might have been the momentum swing right there, but all of them are young people,” Stewart said. “Everybody makes mistakes. When you make mistakes, you’ve got to move on. Mistakes are a part of the game and part of the life we live. But God forgives us. I won’t put it on that kid and say that’s the turning point of the game. There was a lot of ball played before that.”
Timberland, in fact, raced to a 7-1 lead. In the third quarter, a 3-pointer by the Wolves’ Keshawn Williams gave his team a 55-37 advantage.
But Williams, who had seven points at halftime, scored 11 during the third. And he stayed hot in the fourth quarter, finishing with 25.
Timberland, meanwhile, was led by Dailyn McKinney with 25 points, followed by Ta’Sean Johnson and Waun’Ye Cox with 15 each, and Williams with 12.
McRae, in his first year coaching at his alma mater, still has a lot to build upon for next year. Williams, for instance, is a sophomore.
“I’m very proud of the team and very proud of the comeback and very proud of our basketball program,” McRae said. “I’m excited about the direction that we’re headed in. We played a lot of younger guys and are building for the future. We’re going to take this as a learning experience. We’re going to learn from this and look forward to next year and hopefully we’ll be back in the same situation next year.”
Ja’Quan Knowlin added 19 points for the Wildcats.
Timberland 14 22 23 17 — 76
Dillon 8 17 22 19 — 66
Dailyn McKinney 25, Keshawn Williams 12, Harris 4, Ta’Sean Johnson 15, Ra Anderson 5, Waun’Ye Cox 15.
McClam 4, Norman 6, Jallian Williams 25, Bethea 6, White 4, Ja’Quan Knowlin 19, Hayes 2.
RECORDS: D 21-6, T 23-6