Columbia Star

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Cavaliers down A.C. Flora in OT thriller

Richland Northeast’s Marques Smith Jr. soars to the hoop for a layup as A.C. Flora’s Jackson Gray avoids the foul.

Richland Northeast’s Marques Smith Jr. soars to the hoop for a layup as A.C. Flora’s Jackson Gray avoids the foul.

Richland Northeast’s Marques Smith Jr. scored a game-high 18 points and hit the game-winner with two seconds left in overtime to lead the visiting Cavaliers to a 46-44 win over the A.C. Flora Falcons in a Region 5-4A thriller Tuesday, January 10.

Richland Northeast led 12-11 after one quarter of play and pushed that advantage to 27-17 at the break on the strength of an 11-0 run to close the quarter. Smith Jr. led the charge with seven points, which included a late 3-pointer.

After Parker got his first points of the game for Flora with a bucket in the post to start the third, the Cavaliers built a 14-point lead about two minutes later with back-to-back threes from Smith Jr. and Jaylen Tillman. However, Parker led a furious comeback and hit a free throw with 1:40 left in regulation to tie the game at 40-40. The Falcons had a couple of chances to win it but could not convert sending the contest into overtime.

Parker got a follow to start the extra period, but Justice Johnson outwilled everyone plucking a rebound away from A.C. Flora and sinking a low post basket to tie it 42-42. Zackery Watkins then got a steal and a layup to put the Cavaliers up by two. Ry’Neek Maxwell answered for the Falcons sinking a pair of free throws with a 13.4 seconds remaining to tie the game again.

Smith Jr. then went to work. The senior guard dribbled the length of the court, drove down the right side of the lane, and lofted a bank shot in to give Richland Northeast the 46-44 lead with two seconds left.

The Falcons’ 40-foot desperation heave that followed bounced off the back of the rim preserving the Cavalier victory.

“Every game in this region is tough,” Richland Northeast head coach Jacob Lourie said. “Even when we kind of controlled the game and had a lead there, we knew they were going to make a run. So we knew nothing was going to be easy. We kept it together there enough at the end, and Marques Smith made a great play.”

Other Cavalier scorers included Tillman with nine, Watkins with seven, Johnson with five, Cameron Copeland with four, and Avonte Grant with three.

Cooper Wiley and Parker finished with 17 points each. Wiley got 13 in the first half, and Parker’s all came in the second half. Other scorers included Will Willard and Maxwell with four each, and Connor Higgins with two.

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