A special season with a special group of players for the Fort Mill basketball team ended Monday night as the Jackets fell 63-44 to the Ridge View Blazers in the third round of the 5A state playoffs.
The Jackets, who came in the game ranked 10th in the state, hosted the fifth ranked Blazers who has the No. 1 player in the country in the class of 2023 in 6’9” GG Jackson, who scored 21 points in the win. Fort Mill head coach Dwayne Hartsoe said he knew his team had their hands full in this game.
“We didn’t have our best stuff,” Hartsoe said. “They were bigger and stronger than us. We came out in the third quarter and couldn’t get a shot off.”
Fort Mill stayed with Ridge View in the first half, but the second half was a different story as the Jackets couldn’t get past the Blazers’ quickness and length. Ridge View outscored the Jackets 20-7 in the third quarter to take a 21-point lead heading to the final period.
Ridge View led 27-19 at the half, but at the start of the third quarter began flexing some muscles as they quickly added to their lead while Fort Mill missed their first three shots. Kyle Neibch struggled shooting for much of the game as he faced constant pressure and was held to just four points in the game.
The Blazers pushed the lead to 10 at 31-21 with 5:15 left in the third quarter, continuing to pull away as their height allowed them to get many second chance opportunities and rebounds.
Fort Mill played better in the fourth quarter, but being down by 21 to start the period was too much for them to overcome. The Jackets hit seven of 11 shots from the field and scored 18 points, but Ridge View nearly matched them shot for shot.
In the first half, Ridge View had a big first quarter at Fort Mill’s expense and went up 17-9 after the opening period. Ridge View went on an 8-0 run in the quarter to start to distance themselves. Fort Mill struggled to get any good shots off as their normal inside game wavered due to the Blazers’ towering defense that caused the Jackets to mishandle the ball as they had 10 first half turnovers.
Fort Mill was able to pull back in the game in the second quarter opening on a 4-0 run as Gabe Tooper led the Jackets in the quarter. Tooper scored 12 points, 10 of those in the first half, but both him and Neibch only managed two second half points each. The Jackets’ Darryl Carrington was able to step up in the second half for Fort Mill and scored seven of his 12 points.
Fort Mill finished the season at 21-6 overall. Hartsoe said this group of players were special and praised the Jackets’ fan base and student section, which again was packed Monday for the third-round game.
“The kids have been unbelievable,” he said. “It has been a pleasure to coach them. This group really played together as a team. It was a pleasure to come to practice every day. The last four games have been unbelievable.”
Mac Banks: email@example.com, @fortprep