Columbia Star

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Cavaliers inch closer to playoff bid with win over Blue Devils

With 25 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, the Richland Northeast Cavaliers clung to a one-point lead. The Dreher Blue Devils had possession but were unable to get a shot attempt due to the Cavaliers’ defense, which helped Richland Northeast hang on to a 35-34 win Tuesday, February 8.

“That was a crazy sequence at the end,” Richland Northeast head coach Jacob Lourie said. “We were trying to run some clock. They had some fouls to give. It was chaotic there the last few seconds, but we did a good job of handling the ball and not turning it over there at the end. We were very fortune to come out with a win.”

With the win, the Cavaliers and Blue Devils are tied for fourth place in Region 4-4A heading into the final few days of the regular season.

Zackery Watkins led the way for Richland Northeast with 11 points. Marques Smith Jr. finished with seven.

“We’ve been a very balanced team all year,” Lourie said. “We have three or four guys who finished with nine or ten points. We are always looking for the open guy and open shot. We’re not looking for one guy to make the play.”

The game played out like two teams fighting to keep their seasons alive from the opening tip.

Joshua Elliott got Dreher on the board first with a bank shot. Avonte Grant answered with a 3-pointer to move Richland Northeast in front. Elliott responded with a layup to give Dreher a 4-3 edge.

The Cavaliers fought back with a 3-pointer by O’montae Daniels and a layup by Ernest Johnson to give Richland Northeast an 8-4 lead.

A jumper by Ryan Lominack closed the gap to 8-6, before Smith Jr. knocked down a 3-pointer to give the Cavaliers an 11- 6 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Lominack connected on a 3-pointer to start the second quarter and shrink the deficit to 11-9. James Wilcher answered with a 3- pointer to push Richland Northeast’s lead back to five. Marvin Hires responded with a layup, while the Cavaliers got buckets from Daniels and Watkins to close out the half with an 18-11 lead.

Smith Jr. opened the third quarter with a layup to push the Richland Northeast lead to 20-11. Then Dreher stormed back with eight points from Marvin Hires and five from Mekhi Smith-Brown to tie the score at 26-26. A 3- pointer from Watkins put the Cavaliers on top. Then Smith-Brown drained a 3- pointer from beyond half court to tie the score at 29-29 at the end of the third quarter.

“We knew they were going to make a run,” Lourie said. “This is probably one of the toughest regions in the state. We were expecting them to make a run. Our defense broke down a little in the third quarter. We got some real key stops and steals in the fourth to help us out.

A bucket by Watkins gave Richland Northeast a 31-30 lead early in the fourth. Smith-Brown knocked down 1-of-3 free throws to shrink the deficit to a point. A layup from Wilcher extended the Cavaliers lead to 33-30. Hires converted 1-of-2 free throws to keep it a one possession game. A floater by Watkins gave Richland Northeast a 35-31 lead. Then, Smith-Brown knocked down a 3-pointer to get the Blue Devils within one point. However, the Cavaliers’ defense prevented Dreher from scoring any more and closed out the one-point win.

Richland Northeast can punch its ticket to the postseason with a win Friday against Westwood and a loss by Dreher against A.C. Flora.

Richland Northeast: Zackery Watkins 11, Marques Smith Jr. 7, O’montae Daniels 5, James Wilcher 5, Avonte Grant 5, and Ernest Johnson 2.

Dreher: Marvin Hires 13, Mekhi Smith-Brown 12, Ryan Lominack 5, and Joshua Elliott 4.

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