Columbia Star

War Eagles flying back to title game

Gray Collegiate’s Montraivis White dribbles around Keenan’s Chrisean Oree.

Gray Collegiate’s Montraivis White dribbles around Keenan’s Chrisean Oree.

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The Gray Collegiate War Eagles trailed the Keenan Raiders by as much as 14 in the second quarter and 12 points a minute into the third quarter but stormed back to win 72-66 in the Class 2A Upper State Championship in Greenville Friday, February 24.

Down 34-23 at the break, Gray Collegiate head coach Dion Bethea told his War Eagles to, “Continue to keep playing hard. It’s 0-0 at the half. We needed to come out, and we needed to execute. The guys came out, and they wanted it, and we ended up winning it.”

The War Eagles outscored Keenan 49-32 in the second half.

Montraivis White led Gray with a game-high 25 points, 13 of which came in the third quarter to help the War Eagles claw back. LJ Britt came off the bench to add 12, and Braylhan Thomas, Avantae Parker, and Mychael Mitchell scored ten each.

Mitchell had suffered a seizure during the January 17 regular season game against Keenan. He scored eight points in the second half of this game, which included two conventional three-point-plays, to help lead the Gray comeback.

Gray Collegiate’s Michael Mitchell shoots a 3-pointer against Keenan.

Gray Collegiate’s Michael Mitchell shoots a 3-pointer against Keenan.

“I’m just happy for Myke, too—him and his family,” Bethea said. “To go through something like that and then to come out here and execute and play the way he did, it’s definitely Godsent. I’m glad he’s on our team.”

Other scorers for the War Eagles included Justin Pauling with three and Ellis Graham with two.

Chrisean Oree led the Raiders with 19 points. Jaylen Golston added 14, Amarii King had eight, and David Elam and Emanuel McCullough Jr. finished with seven each. Broderick Anderson Jr. had five, Brian Sumpter got four, and Rashard Robinson Jr. had two.

The War Eagles took a 7-5 lead after White’s 3- pointer midway through the first quarter, but Keenan responded with a 10-0 run. Golston led the charge with six points. Britt got a drive to briefly halt the Raider momentum, but Anderson Jr. drained a three at the buzzer to give the Raiders an 18-9 lead.

The lead grew to 27-13 following a coast-to-coast layup with a free throw from King and a layup from Sumpter. Gray came back with drives from Pauling and Thomas to go with a dunk from Parker. The teams played even from there until Oree made three-of-four free throws down the stretch to give the Raiders a 34-23 lead going into the break.

Gray Collegiate’s Braylhan Thomas looks for an opening gainst Keenan.

Gray Collegiate’s Braylhan Thomas looks for an opening against Keenan.

After a free throw and a floater from King, Keenan led by 12 with 6:50 left in the third quarter. From there Gray began to chip away. Put-back baskets from Thomas and Parker got the War Eagles within five, but Elam responded with a bucket in the post for the Raiders. White and Britt then drained 3-pointers for Gray to cut the deficit to 44- 43 with 1:30 left in the quarter. Mitchell followed with a fast break layup with 55 seconds left, and the War Eagles had their first lead since midway through the first quarter.

Thomas added a follow and White hit his fourth 3-pointer to give Gray a 50- 46 lead heading into the final eight minutes.

The War Eagles pushed that advantage to 12 several times before Oree and McCullough Jr. hit 3-pointers to get Keenan within six with 50 seconds to play. However, Gray hit five-of-six free throws down the stretch to put the game away.

“I’ve got so much respect for (Keenan) Coach (Zach) Norris,” Bethea said. “He’s done an amazing job over there, and he only makes us that much better. The first two games we split. Playing Keenan— they’ve got so much tradition, and we knew they were going to give us their best.”

The War Eagles will go for their fifth state championship in six years when they face Oceanside Collegiate in the title game in Aiken Friday March 3.

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