ORANGEBURG, S.C. - Silver Bluff guard Aaron Parker sat in front of a locker with his head in hands and sadness in his eyes.
Or maybe it was just exhaustion.
Parker had kept the Bulldogs in front for most of the Class AA semifinal game, scoring 29 points. But Allendale-Fairfax made sure it wasn't enough.
Shaun Kirkland scored seven of his team-high 17 points in the last 1:29 to knock out a bigger Silver Bluff team 55-51 Tuesday in front of a raucous, overflowing crowd at Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School.
The Tigers first-year coach Shawn Jones said his team, which Silver Bluff dominated 72-53 two weeks ago, earned the come-from-behind win.
"That was big motivation for us, because of all the trash talking," Jones said. "I don't believe in that stuff, I believe in what happens on the floor. We weren't prepared last time we played them, but we got prepared and we got focused."
And his team got fouled by Silver Bluff's big men Alvin Greenwood and Brandon Wallace, who each picked up their fourth fouls halfway through the fourth quarter. That, in turn, gave Allendale-Fairfax the rebounding advantage and the momentum.
"It's tough to win when you put yourself in that situation," Silver Bluff coach Samuel Lilly said. "We did everything right until the last two minutes. We had it, but we let it get away."
Indeed, after Wallace, who finished his high school career with a 12-point effort, buried a 3-pointer to give the Bulldogs (25-6) a 37-25 lead, the Tigers made their move.
Behind Kirkland's big second half, Allendale-Fairfax tied the game at 45-45 with 4:18 to play. And although Parker hit long jumpers and made circus shots to keep his team ahead, it wasn't enough to keep Allendale-Fairfax at bay.
"He played a beautiful game," Lilly said. "He knocked down big shots and he created his own shots all night. He carried us on his back until the end."
That thought didn't give Parker much solace.
"My teammates believed in me and got me the ball," Parker said softly as he pulled on his dress shoes. "I took the shots and they went in. We had a good run this year, but I wish we could have finished on top."
It's something Lilly plans to rectify next season. The Bulldogs will lose eight seniors to graduation - including Wallace, Parker and Greenwood - but Lilly won't use that as an excuse.
"We're not going to come this far and not be back next year," Lilly said. "We're going to take a month off, but we'll come back and we'll go to work."
Reach Josh Katzowitz at (706) 823-3216 or firstname.lastname@example.org