Bennamon's big night lifts Gators
Dantez Bennamon's play in the second round was “huge.”
Home team fan support was far from it.
Bennamon poured in a game-high 34 points and Goose Creek High School held off a feisty Aiken squad on Saturday night, 73-64, earning a spot in the third round of the Class AAAA playoffs.
“(Dantez) really really carried us,” said Goose Creek coach Blake Hall, whose team improved to 20-4. “He's done that all year. He's a stud, and I've been saying that a long time.”
But few people were there to see Bennamon's heroics, and that didn't sit well with Hall. He said his team deserves more, especially when a loss brings the curtains down on the season.
“It's pretty disappointing,” he added. “Aiken is two hours away and they bring more fans than the Goose Creek community. When I go to a football game, I see 7,000 people in the stands. You can't tell me you can't get 500 to 1,000 people here for these boys. This young group worked their butt off and won the region this year. You hope to have more support, especially in a second round home game.”
Aiken's crowd and resilient student section stood out in the second half. But Bennamon was right there to squash every Hornet charge.
After scoring 22 points in the first half to stake Goose Creek to a 34-23 lead, the junior guard answered every Aiken run on the way in.
When the Hornets trimmed their deficit to 47-40 late in the third quarter, Bennamon came right back with a driving layup with 1:00 remaining in the period to ignite a 9-0 run.
Shaquille Patrick got the bounce on a 3-pointer from the corner at the third quarter horn and Chris Singleton made a pair of free throws in the opening seconds of the fourth to give Goose Creek a 56-40 advantage.
But Aiken had one last surge left, and the energy coming from their faithful seemed to make a difference as the Hornets climbed back into it.
The Hornets cut it to 68-64 with under two minutes left.
“I hear Aiken students in the crowd,” Hall said. “I hear Aiken parents in the crowd. I don't have anybody here but family and staff members.”
He finished a layup at the rim and was fouled, making the free throw with 1:18 left to give the Gators a 71-64 lead, sealing the playoff victory.
Aiken finished with a 17-9 record.
Dramel Coleman led the Hornets with 26 points and Megal Hill chipped in with 13.
The Gators were to host Ridge View in the third round on Tuesday night after press time, with the winner advancing to Friday's Lower State final on Friday in Florence.