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Indian Land High School boys basketball coach Nate Smith said he knew the 2011-12 season would be a challenge with the loss of some key players off the 2010-11 team, which finished as the Class AA Upper State runner-up.
The Warriors, who finished 9-13, returned to the Class AA Upper State playoffs, but didn’t last as long as a year ago.
Eau Claire High School, a team IL defeated at home to earn its bid to the Upstate title game at the BI-LO Center, ended the Warriors’ season with a 73-64 win Feb. 15 in Columbia.
“Eau Claire didn’t hit all their free throws, but they hit them at key times,” Smith said. “They were 13 of 24 at the line, but the ones they hit were in clutch situations.
“The difference was the free-throw shooting,” Smith said. “Free throws and rebounding really put us in a hole.”
The Shamrocks, 21-6, took a 14-13 lead after a quarter and extended their advantage to 34-28 at the break.
The EC boys, with a 16-12 surge in the third quarter, gained a little distance for a 50-40 spread with a quarter to play.
The Shamrocks were able to keep their margin with key free throws in the final quarter.
EC’s Jordan Stuckey aided the winners as he came off the bench to net 13 points in the final quarter. Stuckey hit all three of his shots from the field, including a key three-pointer, and netted all six of his shots at the foul stripe.
Wayne Henderson paced the Shamrocks with 15 points, six rebounds and three steals. Marquis Jones netted 12 points and had six caroms and three steals.
Lee McCall paced the Warriors with 16 points and Hayden Sawyer, who was recently named the Region IV-AA Player of the Year, tallied 15.
Rashid McGriff finished with 12 and Chris Barnes scored nine. Marty Cauthen scored five points, as did Quran McMillan. Brandon Barnes scored two points.
‘Strong nucleus coming back’ next season
“We lose two seniors in Jalen Burrell and Rashid McGriff, but we have a strong nucleus coming back with nine junior players,” Smith said. “This season, I felt we matured. We grew this season and gained some key experience. Next season, I feel we will be one of the teams to beat in our region.”
The Warriors finished third in the region, behind Lee Central and Cheraw. Lee Central will be leaving the region to compete in the Class AA Lower State.
On Saturday, Eau Claire, 13-2 since late December with its only losses to Keenan, faced Newberry High School, which rolled over Liberty High School, 117-68, in the Upper State playoffs.
In other games involving Region IV-AA teams, Lee Central edged Batesburg-Leesville, 58-54 and Cheraw fell to Strom Thurmond, 56-48. Keenan rolled over Central of Pageland, 103-46.