COLUMBIA - Down eight points with 1:57 left in the game, the Goose Creek girls basketball team closed the game on a 9-0 run and defeated Spring Valley 52-51 to claim the Class AAAAA state title on Friday night at the Colonial Life Arena.
Senior Mary Davis hit a pair of free throws with nine seconds remaining to cap the improbable comeback and give Goose Creek its second state title in three years. Davis finished with four points, all from the line. Davis was a 46 percent free-throw shooter on the season.
“This is what high school athletics is about, kids making big plays when they have to,” Goose Creek coach Tim Baldwin said. “This is awesome. We had one focus, to win the game. We just dug in. We talk about 32 minutes of accountability and it came down to like 31:58. Crazy.”
Goose Creek (23-1) trailed for most of the game after having an early 3-2 lead. The Gators trailed by a many as 11 points in the opening half and whittled the margin to 33-26 by halftime.
Goose Creek shot just 29 percent from the floor in the opening half, while Spring Valley shot 35.7 percent and was 12 of 13 from the free-throw line.
Spring Valley (26-4) remained in control through the third quarter, sporting a 45-36 lead as the teams headed to the final period.
The game-winning run started with Shayla Nelson’s 17-footer and was followed 30 seconds later by Aniyah Oliver’s 3-pointer with 1:15 to play, cutting the lead to 51-48.
Oliver, a 5-3 junior point guard, grabbed an offensive rebound and scored inside to make it 51-50 with 40 seconds remaining. Goose Creek forced a 5-second call with 24 seconds left and later claimed possession off a jump ball with 12 ticks remaining, setting up Davis’ free throws three seconds later.
“My job is to keep them calm, and their job is to feed off each other,” Baldwin said. “It wasn’t something I said to them. They just started to dial in. We had seven seniors, and they just dug in. A lot of things have to go your way, but you have to be in that position to get the luck. So many things had to piece together at the end.”
Oliver finished the game with 12 points, making all three of her field goals in the fourth quarter. She added eight rebounds and four assists.
“I told her to keep shooting - that’s what shooters do,” Baldwin said of Oliver’s early struggles. “She never thought about it, like a big-time would do.”
Nelson, an all-state selection and one of the top players in the area, finished with 17 rebounds and five blocks, adding six points.
“She knows what it takes,” Baldwin said. “She was our leader during those (late) timeouts. She does all the little things.”
Taylor Lewis led Spring Valley with 24 points and nine rebounds, while Ashley Williamson added 13 points. The Vikings shot only 20 percent from the field in the second half but made 17 of 20 free throws.
Goose Creek finished the game at 31 percent and converted 15 of 21 from the charity stripe.
The teams entered the game ranked 1-2 in the final regular season rankings, and Friday’s meeting was the fourth between the two schools in a championship game with each team winning twice. Spring Valley eliminated Goose Creek in the Lower State finals last season.