Goose Creek falls in title game

Goose Creek’s Shakayia Wilson goes up for a shot over Spring Valley’s Akia Dunlap during Friday’s Class AAAA state championship game in Columbia.

Spring Valley’s victory celebration at midcourt figures to leave an indelible mark in the minds of Goose Creek players as they head into the offseason with thoughts of what might have been.

The Lady Vikings used a 10-0 run to start the final quarter, gaining the traction they needed to claim a 53-46 victory over the Lady Gators in the Class AAAA girls basketball title game on Friday at Colonial Life Arena.

Goose Creek coach Tim Baldwin didn’t take the postgame scene personally. He simply wanted his girls to take notice.

“We said look out there tonight what they’re celebrating for,” said Baldwin, whose team also lost to Spring Valley here in 2011. “We’ll be back next year and we’re going to celebrate ourselves.”

Spring Valley ended with a 26-4 record, while Goose Creek finished at 22-7.

It was the seventh career state crown for Spring Valley coach Anne Long. Goose Creek had won 17 of 18 games after starting off the season 5-5.

“You don’t like to lose,” Baldwin said. “Unfortunately, it happened on the biggest stage to be on, in the state championship game. We made a run, then had some bad luck, some turnovers here and there on some offensive foul calls … We lost our cool a little bit.”

Senior guard Megan Davis ignited Spring Valley’s strong finish, making a pair of 3-pointers to hand the Lady Vikings a 41-36 lead in the first 75 seconds of the fourth quarter.

Junior Christian Hithe followed with a driving layup and senior Akia Dunlap made a jumper to make it 45-36.

Goose Creek never got closer than four points the rest of the way.

Hithe led Spring Valley with 19 points, while Shantay Taylor scored 12 points.

Junior guard Ryan Bishop and sophomore forward Ericka Broughton had 11 points each for Goose Creek.

The Lady Gators have every reason to expect to be in contention for years to come. Every major contributor will be back next winter, and the majority of those return a season after that, too.

But that didn’t ease the sting for Baldwin. Neither did he use his team’s youthful makeup as an excuse. The Lady Gators started an eighth-grader, two sophomores and two juniors. They leaned heavily on another eighth-grader.

“We’re just as good as that team right there,” he said. “It doesn’t matter that I’ve got a bunch of eighth-graders or 10th-graders. The talent is on that bench to win the game. We just didn’t execute.”

The Lady Gators last won a state title in 2010. That came against Spring Valley.

The Lady Vikings have won three crowns since 2009.