FLORENCE -- Earl Brown's brilliant coaching career came to an end Saturday when Johnsonville topped Burke, 54-52, in the Class A Lower State championship in front of about 2,000 fans at the Florence Civic Center.
Brown, who turns 65 in April, has spent 43 years as a basketball coach, including 39 as a head coach. He's been at Burke since the early 1980s, and has won everything but a state title. In December, he became only the third coach in state history to reach 700 career victories. He finished with 717 victories.
Burke led by six points with 3:49 left in the game Saturday, but the Flashes outscored the Bulldogs 12-4 the rest of the way to deny the Bulldogs a sixth trip to the state championship under Brown. The Bulldogs turned the ball over three times and missed the front end of a one-and-one on their last four possessions of the game.
"I don't know if this is a sad day," said Brown, whose team finished with a 23-5 record. "But it is a bad day. Dang, those turnovers at the end killed us. I think the kids were pressing a little too much."
Brown said there wasn't much he could tell his team.
"I hope they learn from this," he said. "I hope this can be an experience they can build on. It can be a lesson. Today, it's about basketball. Down the road, it can be a life's lesson. It's not a great feeling. If I can find any comfort in this, it's the work it took to get here."
Erion Black led the winners with 16 points and Aaron Mack scored 15. Cordea Wilson chipped in with 10.
Tyquan Scott led Burke with 17 points. He scored 15 in the third quarter when Burke rallied from a six-point deficit to take a 42-36 lead after three quarters. John Ross added 10 and David Brown 9.
"I'm sad for the kids," Brown said. "I'll miss the student body, the athletes. That's the sad part."
Burke (52): Scott 17, Dukes 7, Ross 10, Williams 5, Taylor 2, Brown 9, Harley 2.
Johnsonville (54): Black 16, Wilson 10, Mack 15, Hicks 3, Anderson 5, Williams 5.
Records: Johnsonville 21-5; Burke 23-5.