WAGENER, S.C. -- It's playoff time and big players have to make big plays.
For Wagener-Salley's girls, that's Dee Tyler.
The junior forward scored 20 points, including what turned out to be the game-winner with 30 seconds remaining, as Wagener-Salley held off Denmark-Olar 57-56 in a Class A Lower State girls' quarterfinal matchup at Wagener-Salley High School on Monday.
Wagener-Salley (21-4) will play defending Class A state champion Estill, a 66-56 winner over Blackville-Hilda, in a Class A Lower State semifinal matchup on Friday at 7 p.m. at a site to be determined. Wagener-Salley swept the regular season meetings with Estill.
This game was nip-and-tuck all the way through. Neither team led by more than six points and there were numerous lead changes. Wagener-Salley was able to get a little breathing room in the final period, thanks to back-to-back baskets from sophomore Sunshine Cannon to take a 55-50 lead with 3:42 remaining.
Denmark-Olar (15-11) fought back and cut its deficit to one, 55-54, on a shot by Tiffany Washington with 44 seconds remaining.
Tyler, a 5-foot-8 junior, provided the difference when she scored on a runner with 30 seconds remaining to give her team a 57-54 lead.
"I don't know what made me drive to the basket," said Tyler, who averages more than 22 points per game. "I was just as happy as happy could be when it went in."
Denmark-Olar did not go down without a fight. Natalie Lee hit a shot to cut her team's deficit to one, 57-56, with six seconds remaining. Wagener-Salley turned the ball over and Denmark-Olar got it back with four seconds remaining, only to turn it back over with two seconds remaining.
But, Wagener-Salley was guilty of another turnover before a second ticked off the clock, while Denmark-Olar couldn't hang onto the ball with one second remaining. Wagener-Salley finally threw the ball the length of the court to preserve the win.
All four teams -- Wagener-Salley, Estill, Blackville-Hilda and Denmark-Olar -- in Region 5-A won their opening round Class A playoff games. The Wagener-Salley-Estill matchup guarantees that a Region 5-A team will play for the Class A Lower State championship.
"We have to have one of the toughest regions in the Lower State, if not the toughest," Denmark-Olar coach Talmadge Wiggins said. Wiggins was the boys coach at Estill before coming to Denmark-Olar to coach the girls' team.
If Wagener-Salley is to keep advancing it will have to do it without North-South selection Nicole Harrison. For the past six games, the War Eagles have been playing without Harrison, a Class A All-State selection, who was expelled from school for a violation. Harrison was averaging 23 points per game.
She will be replaced in the North-South game on March 28 because she cannot represent her school.
Sophomore guard Latoya Schofield nailed five 3-pointers and scored 15 points. Schofield set a school record by hitting six 3-pointers in the team's first-round win over Cross.
"The longer we play, the more confidence we get," War Eagles coach Jim Gunter said. "We had to replace two starters in the last six games and it has taken a while to adjust, but I feel good about my team."
DENMARK-OLAR GIRLS (56) -- Tiffany Washington 21, Lawanda Greggs 4, Natalie Lee 6, Tiffany Johnson 6, Keisha Jones 19. Totals 24 5-16 56.
WAGENER-SALLEY (57) -- Latoya Schofield 15, Dee Tyler 20, Cassandra Hicks 2, Sunshine Cannon 15, Stacy Jackson 3, Alisha Frazier 2. Totals 23 6-13 57.
Denmark-Olar -- 18 12 12 14 -- 56
Wagener-Salley -- 19 9 14 15 -- 57
3-point goals: Denmark-Olar 3 (Washington, Jones 2), Wagener-Salley 5 (Schofield 5). Records: Denmark-Olar 15-11, Wagener-Salley 21-4. Next: Denmark-Olar concludes its season. Wagener-Salley vs. Estill, Class A Lower State girls' semifinals, Friday, 7 p.m., site to be determined.
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