Bulldogs shut down Sabres to reach state semifinal

February 21, 2019


PETTICOAT JUNCTION — Robbie McKenzie and the third-ranked Silver Bluff boys’ basketball team wanted to make Southside Christian uncomfortable Tuesday night in the teams’ third-round Class AA playoff game.

Neither side was at ease in the first half playing in front of a packed house at Silver Bluff, so the hosts came out of the locker room and turned up the heat.

Now they’re on their way to Greenville.

Silver Bluff outscored Southside Christian 13-3 in the third quarter, turning a three-point halftime lead into a double-digit edge heading into the fourth. The Bulldogs finally got a couple of shots to fall, then dialed up the pressure to take the game away from the visiting Sabres.

“Well, we knew we had to stay all over them,” McKenzie said. “They had shooters all over the court. They went with that small lineup for a little while that shoots it even better. We went with a lot of man tonight, more than we have in the past. After all made baskets, we were really trying to dictate the pressure to them. That’s what we really wanted to do in the second half.”

That’s what they did.

Southside Christian showed it had the potential of spoiling the Silver Bluff seniors’ final home game, making four first-half 3-pointers to pull within 25-22 at the break. The Sabres were then held to one basket and one free throw in the third quarter as the Bulldogs’ lead expanded.

Latavian Lawrence scored seven of his team-high 13 points in the third, and his constant drives to the rim took their toll on the Sabres – a Southside Christian player, while fighting for a rebound at the rim after another Lawrence drive, knocked the ball into his own basket to put the Bulldogs ahead 35-25.

Jadakiss Wright’s 3-pointer that followed was his first bucket of the game, and it gave Silver Bluff a 13-point lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Southside Christian stayed in its zone defense early on, and the shots just weren’t falling for Silver Bluff – after making eight 3s in the first half of Saturday’s win, they had one just one in the first half Tuesday.

Because of that, the Bulldogs had to attack the basket. Darius Johnson scored 12 points, almost all of them the product of his drives to the basket. The jumpers eventually started to fall, with the Bulldogs drilling four 3s in the second half to increase their lead. Wright scored all 10 of his points in the final 8 minutes and change.

The Bulldogs knew they had to rebound the ball well, especially against Southside Christian’s 6-foot-9 Ian Thomson and 6-5 Matt Kormylo. McKenzie said they wanted to play more physical to make up for the size disparity, and they wanted to pressure when they had the opportunities.

“We just had to keep playing and stick to our plan that we had before the game to just keep turning it up,” said senior Jamaal Washington.

Southside Christian senior Chris Chumney made four 3-pointers and scored a game-high 19 points, and Kormylo had 12. Chumney hit back-to-back 3s to make it a three-point game after Silver Bluff went ahead 20-11 in the second quarter, and it stayed tight into early in the third.

From there, Silver Bluff took over. The senior-heavy Bulldogs went out winners in their final home game – their 11th win in a row – and now they’ll play Andrew Jackson at 5:30 p.m. Friday at Greenville’s Bon Secours Wellness Arena for the Class AA Upper State title.

“That means the world. A lot of them were like, ‘Coach, it’s our last time here. Can we get one more last run on the court?’ I said ‘No. I need you guys healthy,’” McKenzie said of his seniors. “We had it, and I let the last seniors get in there a little bit at the end. We’ve been preaching one game at a time. The biggest game in front of us is the one in front of us; the biggest game of the season, anyway. Those seniors have bought in. They know there’s bigger things coming, and we’re gonna get an opportunity in Greenville on Friday.”