By TIM KOELBLE
11:30 PM EST, February 26, 2013
South Hagerstown’s performance on the basketball floor Tuesday night started out very well, but everything the Rebels worked for nearly turned ugly in the fourth quarter.
The Rebels nearly squandered all of a 17-point lead, but managed to fend off charging Thomas Johnson 57-50 in the first round of the Maryland Class 3A West region playoffs.
South, the No. 4 seed, will return home Thursday for a 6:30 p.m. quarterfinal matchup against No. 5-seed Northwood.
“We played a good first half of basketball,” South coach Kevin Naylor said after the Rebels beat Thomas Johnson for the second time this year. “We had good rotation with the offense, and I thought the defense did a good job.”
While things were looking on the up-and-up for South (15-8) with a 40-23 lead midway through the third period, Thomas Johnson (10-13) started to pick up some steam as the fourth quarter began, down 46-32.
After Michael Hill started the fourth quarter with a free throw for a 47-32 Rebels lead, TJ went on a 12-0 run to get within one possession at 47-44 with five minutes yet to play.
“We had the lead and we started taking quick, bad shots from the perimeter,” Naylor said. “We took two timeouts to keep telling them to work from the inside out.”
When TJ gave South opportunities to score with the clocked stopped, South was miserable.
During TJ’s run, the Rebels missed six straight free throws and went 6 for 15 from the foul line in the quarter.
South senior Devon King took a charge, fouled on a drive in the lane, and made two free throws. On South’s next possession, he rebounded his own shot and was fouled for a conventional three-point play and 52-44 lead with 4:10 to go.
“We’ve had freshmen help along the way, but the seniors know this is on their back,” Naylor said.
The Patriots still got it back to 52-50 with two minutes left on four points from Kendle Pitts and a goal by Erik Blankson.
Che Swayne then swished a critical 3 for the Rebels, freshman James Brooks hit a free throw and TJ contributed with two turnovers down the stretch.
“We’ve brought in the youngsters and the seniors have taken them under their wings,” Naylor said. “They are developing a chemistry. Tonight we had a number of contributors.”
South opened its first wide margin late in the second quarter at 27-16, before leading at the half 29-19.
The Rebels’ lead stretched to 17 at 40-23 early in the third period when Glen Tensley scored his only seven points of the game.
King led the Rebels with 20 points and worked his way to nine rebounds. Freeman had 11 points and seven assists.
Blankson paced Thomas Johnson with 15 points, while Pitts and Temoi Roper each had 10. Blankson also had eight rebounds.
South Hagerstown 57, Thomas Johnson 50
THOMAS JOHNSON (10-13)
Dowdy 2, Pitts 10, Roper 10, Blankson 15, Lott 6, Longo 1, Barbe 6. Totals 18 9-14 50.
SOUTH HAGERSTOWN (15-8)
Freeman 11, Tensley 7, Hill 7, D. King 20, Swayne 7, Vaughan 2, Brooks 3. Totals 19 15-28 57.
T. Johnson 12 7 13 18 — 50
South 15 14 17 11 — 57
3-point goals — Thomas Johnson 5 (Roper, Lott, Pitts, Barbe 2), South 4 (Freeman, Tensley, D. King, Swayne). Fouled out — Lott, Roper.
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