Ridgeland-Hardeeville’s quest to capture its first boys state basketball championship fell by the wayside in much the same way so many opponents have against top-ranked Keenan this season.
The Raiders used a torrid second-half blitz to win their eighth state title with a 70-40 victory over the Jaguars on Saturday afternoon at Columbia’s Colonial Life Arena.
It was the Jaguars’ third appearance in a state championship since 2015 but they’ve come up short each time. The Raiders’ last title came in 2015 when they defeated Ridgeland-Hardeeville as well. They lost in the finals in 2017 before returning to the top this season.
But the third time wasn’t the charm for coach Jeremiah Faber.
“I thought the third time was the charm,” Faber said as he dried tears from his face. “We sort of lost the game in the third quarter. Bad turnovers, bad possessions, some bad shots but beyond that I’m proud of the kids. They did a great job to get back here.”
It looked like two evenly matched teams in the first half. Ridgeland-Hardeeville held a 20-19 lead at the break and Faber expected much of the same style in the second half.
The Raiders turned up the defensive pressure and outscored the Jaguars 51-20 over the final 16 minutes. It started with a 16-3 run to open the third quarter and didn’t stop until the final buzzer.
Faber kept going back to that third quarter as the downfall.
“We missed some opportunities early on in the third quarter,” he said. “We didn’t execute. We settled for jump shots and some bad turnovers got us behind the eight-ball. They had some run outs and we didn’t make the transition back on defense.”
Faber, the longtime coach who’s been in Jasper County since the 1980s and the only coach the school has known since coming together in 2012, was emotional and reflective as his team accepted the runner-up trophy for the second straight season.
“I don’t know how many years are left in the tank,” Faber said. “I’m still healthy and I still believe the program is where it needs to be. The kids still respond to me. As long as they respond, then we’ll be all right. When the kids stop responding, then I will know it’s time to leave.”
Asanti Price scored all 22 of his points in the second half to lead four Keenan players in double figures. Ny’Gel Boozer scored a team-high 18 points for Ridgeland-Hardeeville.
R-H – Ny’Gel Boozer 18, Hamilton 6, Baker 2, D. Butler 5, R. Butler 5, Orr 4. K – Asanti Price 22, Dillon Jones 15, Latrell Taylor 15, Raekwon Horton 10, Sanders 2, Garrett 2, Morris 4.