Goose Creek advances to state championship
Dantez Bennamon scored a game-high 24 points, and made all 19 of his attempts from the free-throw line, as the Goose Creek Gators captured the Lower State championship in Class AAAA on Friday night with a 57-47 victory over Sumter at the Florence Civic Center.
The Gators (22-4) meet Irmo, a 63-49 winner over Hillcrest in the Upper State final, in Friday's state title game in Columbia. Tip off is set for 8:30 p.m. in Colonial Life Arena.
Bennamon also added nine rebounds and five steals for the Gators, who converted 33 of 36 free-throw attempts to counter their struggles from the field.
Sumter led 26-23 with 3:50 left in the third quarter before the Gators went on a 24-4 run to take control. They did most of their damage from the charity stripe in the run, making 15 free throws. Bennamon made nine free throws during the stretch and knocked down a long 3-pointer.
Sumter cut its deficit to 52-43 with 1:22 left but Chris Singleton made 5 of 6 free throws in the home stretch for the Gators. Singleton had 14 points.
Goose Creek last won a state championship in 2009 but Blake Hall, the first-year Gators coach, has a chance to go back-to-back. Last winter, he guided North Charleston to the Class AA championship.
Hall is a perfect 9-0 in postseason games as a high school coach in South Carolina.
For a number of Gators on the basketball team, including Bennamon, a championship could ease the sting of a football season cut short by the South Carolina High School League. The Gators were 13-0 in football season and only two wins away from back-to-back titles before being bounced from the postseason for using an ineligible player.