Blue Ridge’s Justin Bailey scored a game-high 38 points—including 19 in the fourth quarter—to lead the Tigers to a 52-45 win over the Keenan Raiders in the 3A Upper State Championship game in Greenville February 28.
Keenan head coach Zach Norris was less than thrilled about the officiating in his team’s loss.
“It’s tough to stop them if they’re going to be protected by the whistle,” he said. “I just can’t understand why we couldn’t get the same type of whistles.
“But he’s a good kid,” Norris said of Bailey. “He can play. I’m not going to take anything from him. He did a wonderful job. He got where he needed to get on the court. He put us in situations where we had to kind of foul. But I thought we were putting them in situations too, and we don’t get a call. That’s how the ball bounces; we’ll be back next year.”
The Tigers shot 24 free throws (12 in the fourth quarter), while Keenan had 11 (two in the fourth quarter).
Blue Ridge led by four late in the first quarter, but the Raiders came back with a dunk from Semajeh Echols and a jumper from Marquece Williams to tie it at 10-10.
Bailey scored seven to give the Tigers another four-point edge with 2:22 left in the half, but Keenan stormed back with a 7-2 run getting a drive from Echols, a free throw from Williams, a jumper from Amari King, and a buzzer-beater from Jaden Gipson to lead 22-21 at the break.
The Raiders kept the momentum going with a 6-0 run to start the third getting four from Echols. Their lead grew to 10 late in the third with four from Chrisean Oree, but Bailey completed an “and 1” and then hit a jumper to cut the Keenan lead to 34-29 going into the fourth.
Bailey took over from there scoring the Tigers’ next eight points. Oree fought back with four for Keenan, but Garrett Stokes sank a couple of free throws to give Blue Ridge a 39-38 lead with 3:50 to play.
Bailey then scored the next 11 points for the Tigers getting a short jumper and sinking 9-of-10 from the free throw line. The Raiders got 3-pointers from Rashard Robinson and Oree late, but by then the damage was done.
“They’ve done an excellent job,” Norris said of his seniors. “I’ve been to two finals and the final four every year since they’ve been here.”
“They just stuck with each other, and then they decided they were going to buy in,” Norris reflected on his team’s season. “I think the young guys see if you buy in early, better things will happen earlier, then you have a much better year. But I’m real proud of them for the way they fought back.”
BR: Justin Bailey 38, Garrett Stokes 6, Demitre Hall 3, Zach Skinner 3, Jon Kauffman 2.
K: Chrisean Oree 16, Semajeh Echols 13, Amari King 6, Marquece Williams 5, Rashard Robinson 3, Jaden Gipson 2.