Trojans’ rally comes up short

A dream season ended in disappointment for the James Island boys basketball team in Friday night’s AAAA Lower State title game against Sumter. But not without another monumental effort from the Trojans.

After digging a huge first-quarter hole, James Island nearly pulled off a miracle comeback before losing, 48-44, ending the Trojans’ season at 22-6.

“I know we didn’t win the game, but I can’t say enough about how proud I am of these guys,” said James Island coach Stan Wilkins. “With the way the game started, we could have been down by 25 or more and laid down. But this team wouldn’t quit and I knew they wouldn’t quit. That’s the type of kids we have this year.”

Sumter opened the game red-hot from the field, connecting on three 3-pointers early and grabbing a 9-0 lead. The barrage continued as the Gamecocks led, 19-1, after the first quarter.

“I made a bad decision as coach to go zone early instead of man,” admitted Wilkins.

The Trojans gained a measure of momentum in the second half, outscoring Sumter, 12-10, but still trailed, 29-13, at halftime.

The momentum carried over into the third period as the Trojans managed to cut Sumter’s lead back into single digits on Vince Cole’s basket and free throw, trimming the margin to 34-25 with 3:55 remaining.

Trailing, 37-27, Ryan Braswell converted a three-point play with 46 seconds left in the period, bringing the Trojans within seven after three quarters.

James Island was twice able to trim the lead to six points in the fourth quarter, and Jordan McDaniel hit two free throws with 2:29 to play to bring the Trojans to within five at 43-38.

Brady Shuck’s runner in the lane with 53 seconds remaining made it 46-42. After Brandon Parker gave the Gamecocks a 47-42 lead with a free throw, Schuck floated a shot for two in the lane to make it a one-possession game at 47-44 with 33 seconds to play.

The comeback ended, however, as the Trojans missed a pair of free throws with 16 seconds left and failed on a pair of three-point attempts.

Schuck, James Island’s all-state senior point guard, led the Trojans with 12 points. Cole added eight points and McDaniel scored six.

Parker paced Sumter with 12 points, while Micah McBride and Quentin Kershaw each added 11 points. Sumter converted only five of 21 from the free throw line in the game. Sumter was making its third consecutive appearance in the AAAA Lower State finals and won for the first time in three trips.

Though James Island loses nine seniors, Wilkins feels the program is ready for an extended run.

“I’m disappointed that this run ended because this was such a great group of kids and they deserved everything they got this year,” said Wilkins. “Hopefully, with the kids we have returning in the program, this is the start of something. Hopefully James Island basketball is back.”