Ware Shoals survives McCormick in tournament's opening round
|Ware Shoals’ Sharmar Rice takes a shot as McCormick’s Kevin Marshall (14) looks on Wednesday during the 20th annual Bearcat Christmas Classic. (Matt Walsh | Index-Journal)|
As Wesley Jordan saw his free throw bounce off the rim late in Wednesday's game versus McCormick, only one thought went through his mind.
"I wanted to win, so I knew I had to get that ball," he said.
Jordan recovered the loose ball off a deflection and hit two more free throws to help Ware Shoals fend off McCormick 55-51 to advance to the next round of the Bearcat Christmas Classic at Lander University.
The contest was a thrilling back-and-forth affair that featured 14 lead changes in the second half. For Ware Shoals (3-7 overall), it was the third consecutive close game the team has been in. After a two-point loss to Ninety Six last Friday, the Hornets pulled out a dramatic overtime win against Brashier Middle College on Monday before Wednesday night's nailbiter.
Hornets coach Tim Gaines said while he was happy for the victory against the Chiefs, he was dismayed the game was even as close as it was given his team had a nine-point lead at one point in the first half.
"We just need to do a better job of not going to sleep on defense when we do have a lead," he said. "(The Hornets) did a good job, though. We didn't turn the ball over that much and made some free throws. I think we handled the pressure better than we have so far this year."
Indeed, the Hornets handled the pressure, hitting seven of eight free throws in the final 40 seconds. The only miss was from Jordan, who could have put his team up four points with a make, but instead put it up five with the two makes after recovering the loose ball.
Angelo Littlejohn responded with a 3-pointer to get back to within two points at 53-51, but Shamar Rice hit two final daggers with 5.1 seconds remaining to seal the win.
Though his team fought hard to get back into the game, McCormick (2-6 overall) coach Miguel Burns was in no mood afterward to celebrate moral victories.
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