Ridgeland-Hardeeville is silently becoming one of the best boys basketball programs in the state.
The Jaguars showed why again on Saturday afternoon in the Class 3A Lower State Championship game in Florence. They trailed by as many as 11 points before rallying for a 56-51 victory over Manning to put them in their second straight state championship game.
Ridgeland-Hardeeville (27-3) will face Keenan, a 70-55 winner over Chester in the Upper State final, next Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at Columbia’s Colonial Life Arena.
“When it comes to basketball in the Lowcountry, I want Ridgeland-Hardeeville to be recognized,” R-H coach Jeremiah Faber said. “You look at the run we’ve had the last six years and it measures with just about anyone in the state. We have some kids in Jasper (County) that can play basketball.”
The Jaguars had to play without co-Class 3A Player of the Year Rashamel Butler. He picked up two technical fouls in the third round win over Marion and was suspended for the semifinals.
Ny’Gel Boozer, Rashard Baker and Devin Butler more than made up for the loss. Boozer led the way with 22 points, Baker added 17 and Butler chipped in with 11 as that trio scored 50 of the Jaguar points.
It was their performance at the free throw line in the fourth quarter that proved to be the difference. Manning (23-4) led 39-31 to open the final eight minutes but Ridgeland-Hardeeville methodically chipped it down and finally took the lead on two Butler free throws with 2:38 remaining.
The Monarchs retook the lead at 51-49 before Boozer drilled a deep 3-pointer with 1:48 remaining to give the Jaguars the lead for good.
Boozer and Butler combined to go 11-of-14 from the free throw line as they attacked the basket instead of settling for jumpers.
“I thought Rashard Baker played a heck of a game for us,” Faber said. “He gave us some juice and energy when we were flat. I told the kids at halftime that if we’re going to win this game, it’s got to be on our defense on the floor. They did a really great job.”
“In the second half, we attacked the basket and was able to get to the free throw line and knock them down. The kids are relentless and have no quit in them.”
M – Darias Williams 12, Chris Livingston 11, Corey Graham 10, Nelson 7, Brown 7, Louden 4. R-H – Ny’Gel Boozer 22, Rashard Baker 17, Devin Butler 11, Zimmerman 5, Hamilton 1.