Home-court dominance has top-ranked Orangeburg-Wilkinson back in the Class 3-A Lower State girls’ basketball finals.

Overcoming foul trouble and subpar shooting in the fourth quarter, the Bruinettes held off Socastee 43-29 Monday night for their 27th consecutive playoff win in the Bruins Den and 16th straight overall.

In also extending the active home winning streak to 24 in a row, O-W (26-1) advanced to its third Lower State final appearance in five years. Awaiting the Bruinettes this Saturday at the Florence Civic Center is Crestwood, a 60-49 overtime winner at North Myrtle Beach.

Region 8-AAA Player of the Year Nabresha Hughes had a game-high 17 points and was the only player in double figures for either team. Both the Bruinettes and Lady Braves struggled to find a rhythm offensively and this was evident in the fourth quarter when they each made just one field goal.

The second half was especially futile offensively for Socastee (16-11), which was held to just seven points. With no points coming from the field and going 2-8 from the foul line, the Lady Braves were unable to take a lead at any point and end the streaks.

“We did a very, very good job defensively in the second half, only giving up seven points,” O-W head coach Joshua Staley said.

With Hughes shaking off a slow start in the last outing with 10 first-quarter points, the Bruinettes held a 14-point advantage. Once center Vondria Ritter was benched early with two quick fouls and Socastee switched to a zone defense to force outside jumpers, O-W was thrown out of its offensive game plan, according to Staley.

The three-point line enabled Socastee to erase the double-digit deficit. Blake Smith connected on two of three, three-pointers, which brought the Lady Braves to within a point at 21-20.

A three-point play by Sau’kita Glover helped stem the turning tide as the Bruinettes entered the locker room with a 24-22 lead.

“That’s just playoff basketball,” Staley said. “Socastee is a very exceptionally good team. They don’t have a lot of size, but the kids play sound, they stick to the game plan and hit some real good shots early. We got into foul trouble real early. Two starters were on the bench in foul trouble, so it was just a playoff game. We had to find a way to get through.”

The Lady Braves got within a point again early in the third quarter. After Ritter picked up her third personal foul, Staley inserted Dejoria Howard in the lineup, where she remained for most of the second half.

The sophomore forward, playing her second game since suffering a knee injury two weeks ago, sparked a 10-2 run that closed the third quarter with back-to-back short jumpers. Meanwhile, O-W’s man-to-man pressure defense forced Socastee into turnovers and initiated a scoring drought, which stretched well into the fourth quarter.

“We knew we were up against, but our kids’ credit, I feel like they came in with a mindset to win a basketball game,” Lady Braves head coach Ginger Ford said.

O-W also struggled offensively in the final stanza as it went scoreless for over six minutes and missed three straight free throws after entering the bonus.

After Howard’s free throw with 1:48 ended the scoring drought for both sides, the Bruinettes’ Kierra Mitchell provided a double-digit cushion with two free throws and a steal and layup in less than 5 seconds.

By the time Socastee’s Heather Kyler hit a bank shot with 1:03 left, the home faithful were in a celebratory mood and began making plans for a trip to Florence to face the Lady Knights (24-5).

Tip-off for Saturday’s game is 5:30 p.m.

ORANGEBURG-WILKINSON ( 43)

Zaria Snipes 3, Nabresha Hughes 17, Dejoria Howard 5, Kierra Mitchell 4, Sade Johnson 4, Sau’kita Glover 8

SOCASTEE (29)

Blake Smith 8, Maegan Harrellson 2, Heather Kyler 2, Kira Bell 5, Madison Love 4, Sierrah McCarthy 8

CLASS 3-A PLAYOFF

Crestwood 60, North Myrtle Beach 49 (OT)

Crestwood advances

over N. Myrtle Beach

From The Sun News

LITTLE RIVER — For all the excitement at the end of regulation, the North Myrtle Beach girls basketball season came to an slow, drawn-out end.

The Chiefs fell to Crestwoood in overtime Monday while one of the team’s best players sat on the bench and the Knights’ All-State selection made free throw after free throw.

“Losing your last game definitely hurts,” North Myrtle Beach coach Jude Hunt said. “Our seniors have been with me. I first started working with them six years ago. I spent a lot of time with these girls. I knew this was an important game for us. I hate it for them, more than anything. I just hate that we didn’t get it done.”

The Lady Chiefs had a five-point lead with a little more than one minute to go before Crestwood’s Keauna Williams connected on a 3-pointer. Williams then stole the in-bounds pass and converted an open lay-up to tie the game. Each team scored once more leading up to Daniquia Lewis’ lay-up with 3.8 seconds remaining.

North Myrtle Beach then got a length-of-the-court pass to Marci Chestnut – who connected on a lay-up of her own with less than 1 second remaining – to force overtime.

However, while the Lady Chiefs were able to get into the extra period without India Farmer on the court, their luck ran out there.

In overtime, Lewis, named to the Class 3-A All-State team last week, hit nine of her 10 free-throw attempts. It was more than enough to end North Myrtle Beach’s season at 24-3.

“I just wanted them to know that I was going to take my team to victory,” Lewis said. “We have a goal of winning a state championship.”

Contact the writer: tgrant@timesanddemocrat.com or by calling (803) 533-5547. Follow Grant on Twitter@TandDSports.

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