Boys hoops down Harlem 71-68 for first win in 40 tries

First Byline: 
Burton Kemp Jr.

Halleluiah it is over!
Scoring the first points of the night and never trailing, the SCHS Gamecocks survived a late Harlem surge and hung on for a 71-68 win before a sparse crowd at the Harold Lee Scott Gymnasium Jan. 31.
The three-point win gave the Roosters their first win since Feb. 13, 2012, and brought an end to their 39-game losing streak.
The regular season will close this weekend with Swainsboro’s Tigers here on Friday, Feb. 7, and a trip to South Effingham on Saturday in a makeup of a contest postponed Jan. 28.
Postseason play will begin Monday, Feb. 10, when both SCHS teams travel to Harlem to again face their Friday opponents in the play-in game of the Region 3AA tournament. The winners will then face the third place team from sub-region Region 3AA-A the following night in the Lucy Craft Laney gym.
With a two-point road loss to Harlem Jan. 17 still fresh in their minds, the Gamecocks were aware that Friday might be their best chance to end their losing streak, though they also knew that another encounter with the Dawgs was already lined up for next week.
Chandler Rigdon opened the game with a pair of treys and the Roosters were up 6-0 before the seats on the benches were warm.
Before quarter’s end, Rigdon hit for another three; Rashad Hughley and Desmond Williams had each also hit for a three and had five points each; and Donta Wilburn had four.
A 23-11 lead after a quarter was unchartered territory for SCHS.
Hughley and Williams each hit a pair of baskets early in the second stanza to help stretch the Red and White’s lead to 16 at 33-17.
In all likelihood, the lead was the team’s biggest since a 74-53 win over South Effingham on Nov. 29, 2011.
There were quickly anxious moments as a 14-2 run by the visitors closed their deficit to 35-31. Another deuce by Hughley and a trey by Williams had the intermission score at 40-31.
Though they saw their third quarter lead dip to 48-46 with 2:10 left, late baskets by Kenton Foy and Rigdon gave the Gamecocks a 52-47 lead heading into the crucial fourth.
The first five minutes of the final stanza saw the home team maintain its lead, even stretching it back to the halftime margin of nine at 65-56 following an old-fashioned three-point-play by Wilburn.
Things quickly got tense down the stretch as Harlem pulled within one at 67-66 with 1:20 to go. A basket and a free throw by Williams and a free throw by Rigdon pushed the lead back to 71-66 with just 16 seconds remaining and the verdict was in.
A trio of Gamecocks hit for double figures led by Hughley’s 20, followed by Williams with 19, and Rigdon with 17. Desmond White had nine rebounds.
Not all of the news was good Friday, however, as the Lady Gamecocks lost their 19th in a row as they fell to Harlem’s Lady Bulldogs by a 44-32 margin.
The SCHS girls used a strong second half performance to make the final score respectable as they fell behind 26-7 at the half.
Shakinah Rollins had 15 and Portia Long 13 in the loss.