PETTICOAT JUNCTION --- One thing remained clear Tuesday night when Silver Bluff and Strom Thurmond exhaled following another wild fourth quarter: place these two boys basketball teams in the same gym and you will see a cutthroat contest.
The teams played their second competitive game in seven days, with Silver Bluff earning a season sweep with a 47-42 victory. The Bulldogs, who have won their first six games, prevailed even though they converted only one field goal in the fourth quarter, where they also shot 6 of 14 from the foul line.
Silver Bluff never trailed and led by a dozen points at the end of three quarters. But twice the Rebels, scoring mostly in transition, cut the lead to three points in the final 2:15.
"I just think psychologically we became a little hesitant, hoping the game would end and we would still be ahead," said Silver Bluff coach Drew Jernigan, whose team had previously defeated Strom Thurmond 64-62.
The Rebels sliced the lead down to one possession as late as the final 20 seconds. With his team leading by three points, LJ Green hit two free throws with 14 seconds remaining to seal the victory for Silver Bluff. The two teams combined to miss 18 of 29 free throws.
Green led the Bulldogs with 13 points. Leading scorer Theron Stephens, an explosive 5-foot-9 guard, had 10 points three days after scoring 31 in a narrow victory at Greenbrier.
The Rebels, who lost in the second round of the state playoffs a year ago, were ranked in the Class AA state coaches' top-10 poll to start the season. But they've dropped four of their first five games.
Strom Thurmond head coach Bo Rouse, however, remained encouraged they will play better. Asked what was wrong with his team, he repeated the same phrase four times.
"Free throws, free throws, free throws, free throws," he said. "Once we start making free throws, we'll start winning some ball games."
Rouse said he was frustrated with his team's early struggles, which left Strom Thurmond trailing 29-17 at halftime and 39-27 to start the fourth quarter. That initial performance didn't give the Rebels a chance to win even though they scored the first eight points of the final quarter and gave up only one field goal to the Bulldogs, a stickback with 3:32 left.
"In the fourth quarter we decided to play ... the other three quarters, I guess we were still on the bus," Rouse said.
Promising sophomore post player Alex Parks scored 12 points to lead the Rebels before fouling out with 73 seconds left.
Reach Matt Middleton at (706) 823-3425 or firstname.lastname@example.org.