The (Sumter) Item

SUMTER — As Sonny Butler prepared to inbound the basketball for the Sumter High School varsity boys team with 28 seconds remaining in overtime of its third-round game of the Class AAAA state playoffs against North Augusta, he knew the ball was coming back his way.

“All I was thinking was ‘I’ve got to hit this shot,’” Butler said.

Butler inbounded the ball, took the kickback and buried a 3-point basket to put the Gamecocks up for good in a 70-67 win on Tuesday at the SHS gymnasium that moves them to the Lower State championship game on Friday.

Sumter (18-10) will face Goose Creek at 8:30 p.m. on Friday at Florence Civic Center after it beat Ridge View 70-44.

“It’s great to be playing in this game,” said Gamecock post player Auntrell Holloway, who had a double-double of 13 points and 12 rebounds. “This is showing that all of this hard work has paid off.”

Sumter coughed up a four-point lead in the final 1:22 of regulation and survived a shot at the buzzer by the Yellow Jackets that hit the rim to get to overtime tied at 53-all. North Augusta (19-7) got a 3-point play from Malik Dunbar, a trey from Christian Davis and two free throws from Chandler Harrison to go up 61-55 with 2:09 left in OT. The Yellow Jackets led 65-61 when Sumter began its comeback.

A Holloway followup with 1:02 to go cut the lead to two. The Jackets turned the ball over with 37 seconds remaining, the Gamecocks took control before having the ball knocked out of bounds under their basket. Butler inbounded to 6-foot-5 Anthony Moses, and he headed to the left corner. Moses gave him the ball right back and then set a screen.

“(Moses) set a great screen for me,” said Butler, who had 13 points after the high-arching shot drained through the net to put Sumter up 66-65 with 26 seconds remaining.

“We knew Sumter had good shooters,” said North Augusta head coach Al Young. “They ran a good play, and our defender just couldn’t get to the shooter, and he hit the shot.”

The Jackets tried to catch Sumter sleeping, throwing down the court on the inbound. The Gamecocks intercepted the ball and Butler was fouled with 18 seconds to go. He drained both free throws to make it 68-65.

North Augusta didn’t go away easy though. Davis was fouled with 14 seconds left and hit both free throws to make it 68-67. Sumter turned the ball over on the inbound play, but Davis missed on a shot. Moses was fouled with six seconds remaining, and he hit both to make it 70-67.

North Augusta got a good look on a game-tying 3-pointer, but Tavarez Hall’s shot hit off the rim.

“We’ve been in these kind of situations before this season,” said Sumter head coach Sam Fuller. “We just continued to fight throughout the game, and we were able to get the victory.”

Sumter had four players score in double figures. Along with Butler and Holloway, Brandon Parker had 12 and Micah McBride had 11. McBride hit three 3-pointers while Parker hit two.

Harrison led North Augusta with 18 points, while Dunbar and T.J. Sheppard had 15 apiece and Davis had 10.

The Jackets, the Region 5-AAAA champions, controlled the game through most of the first half. They led 20-16 after one quarter and scored 10 of the first 12 points in the second to go up 30-18. They were still leading 35-25 with 1:45 remaining in the first half. However, Sumter got a 3-pointer from McBride and a layup by Erick White with less than a second left to make the halftime score 35-30.

“I thought we made some ill-advised decisions at the end of the second quarter,” Young said. “We were in control of the game and let it get away from us.”

Sumter took control at the start of the third quarter, outscoring North Augusta 14-4 to go in front 44-39. It looked as though Sumter’s depth began to show.

“This is what we’ve done all year long,” Fuller said of rotating 10 to 12 players in and out of the game. “They guys know they’re going to play, so when the opportunity comes, they’re ready to make plays.”

Sumter chose to take off some clock in the fourth quarter and North Augusta climbed back in the game.

NA 20 15 4 14 14 – 67

SUM 16 14 14 9 17 – 70

North Augusta (19-7)—Christian Davis 10, Malik Dunbar 15, TJ Sheppard 15, Kenny Finley 1, Chandler Harrison 18, Tavarez Hall 8.

Sumter(18-10)—Kyles 2, Butler 13, McBride 11, Parker 12, White 7, Rembert 4, Holloway 13, Kershaw 2, Moses 6.