COLUMBIA — Nearly 17,000 fans packed into the Colonial Life Arena on Saturday as Newberry High School’s quest to win its first state team title in any sport since 1981 fell just short in a 91-82 loss to the Lake Marion Gators.
The 173 combined points was the highest total in a championship game in South Carolina since Lake Marion and Greer scored a state record 197 points between them in 2005.
The Gators were ranked the entire season in the top spot of the coaches’ poll while the Bulldogs were ranked in the second spot.
Like last year, when North Charleston used its height and size to their advantage for an inside game in a one-point defeat of Newberry, Lake Marion did the same this year. Only four of their shots came from behind the three point arc, compared to eight for Newberry.
The two teams battled back and forth the entire first quarter but neither team could build up any kind of substantial lead for any given amount of time.
Newberry led 20-17 after the opening quarter. Lake Marion went on an 8-2 run in the second quarter’s first 2:09 to have a 25-22 advantage.
Newberry then went on a 9-2 run as the Bulldogs took a 41-38 lead into the locker rooms.
This was Newberry’s narrowest halftime lead since they also led by three points over Buford, Ga., at the Upward Classic at Dorman High in December.
Newberry Head Coach Chad Cary did not use his first time-out until the 4:52 mark of the third quarter with the score tied at 46.
The Gators headed into the fourth quarter with a four point lead at 60-56.
Newberry called two time-outs in the fourth quarter — once when it led 72-70 with 3:42 left in the game and with 2:41 left in the game with a 76-74 advantage. Lake Marion then went on a 17-6 run to end the game.
Kaheem Praylow scored 24 points, 10 in the fourth quarter alone. Jaylin Alexander saw 19 points go in as he had a game-high nine points in the first quarter.
Notorious Booker scored in each quarter and finished with 12 points. Trey Miller also ended in double digits as he scored 10 points. Jaylen Lindsay had eight points while Tovaris Cureton finished with three points.
Newberry’s scoring ended with the two points of Bennett Wilson, Jaylen Reeder and Jeremy Summers. Newberry won the bench scoring 27-8.
The Bulldogs finish the season with an overall record of 26-3 and now has a two-year record of 51-7. The 2012-13 team scored at least 67 points in all 29 games they played this season.
Teams playing in the basketball championship on Saturday typically go see the games on Friday to get a feel for the court, find out about their locker rooms and see what kind of atmosphere it will be like.
Before they scoped out the Colonial Life Arena, however, they stopped by a Columbia children’s hospital to check on one of their biggest fans — Duece Goings, the son of Benjy Goings, Michelle Goings and Meagan Goings. Deuce is a 13-year-old seventh-grader at the Newberry Middle School.
Jody Day, a Newberry resident who coached team members Wilson, Jimmy Willingham, Trey Gary and Reeder in city recreation league football years ago, organized the experience through the Goings family and Wilson.
All 16 players, three coaches and other team personnel stopped by to see Goings for a few moments and presented Duece Goings with an autographed game ball that he clutched proudly in a photo made with the team. The Goings family posted the photo on Facebook while the team was en route for the game.