Catawba Ridge’s Grant Lovette goes up for a lay-up during the Copperheads game Thursday on the road in Columbia.

COLUMBIA – Call it a bad omen before the game ever started as the Fort Mill School District activity bus blew a tire on the way to Columbia for the Catawba Ridge boys’ basketball teams first ever playoff game.

While no one was injured in the mishap, the start of the playoff game was pushed back by 15 minutes and when it did start the Copperheads had second half troubles that led to them falling to the AC Flora Falcons 57-41 in the first round of the 4A playoffs.

Coming into the game, the two teams looked even on paper as the Copperheads were 20-5 and AC Flora was 20-6. Both were ranked in the top 10 in 4A with AC Flora being ranked fourth and Catawba Ridge being ranked eighth.

Catawba Ridge trailed 26-19 at the half, but for the most part the Copperheads were still in the game. AC Flora opened the second half on a 7-2 run and then eventually went up by 20 at 41-21 in the third quarter.

“The third quarter they got key runs,” said Catawba Ridge head coach Brett Childers. “We couldn’t get them off the boards.”

The Copperheads struggled in the third quarter shooting the ball as they hit just three of 12 shots. AC Flora was very tall and quick and used their speed to score in transition often and also caused 16 turnovers for Catawba Ridge.

Catawba Ridge trailed 43-25 at the end of the third quarter and made a small run in the fourth quarter by outscoring AC Flora 16-9 with the help of eight points from Zyan Hager. The Falcons used up a lot of time in the fourth quarter by holding the ball and running time off the clock.

In the first half, the Copperheads were able to keep pace with AC Flora for the most part despite a fast start from the Falcons where they went up 14-6 in the first quarter. Catawba Ridge was able to go on a small 6-0 run to close out the quarter trailing by four.

Grant Lovette led the Copperheads with 11 points, six of those coming in the first quarter. Landon Foley finished with 10 points for Catawba Ridge and helped to lead the Copperheads in the second quarter and for much of the second half.  

Catawba Ridge finished the season at 20-6 and Childers said despite the outcome, he is proud of how far the team has come in three seasons.

“We accomplished so much to look back on,” he said of the year. “We have so much to be proud of. This season was a success. It was a tough draw (against AC Flora). Our guys competed.”

Catawba Ridge graduates just three players in seniors Carter Hendrick, Jacob Stevens and Jack Turnbow from this year’s team.

Girls’ basketball

The Fort Mill girls’ basketball team also made the trip to Columbia to play Spring Valley in the 5A girls playoff opener falling 49-36. The Jackets kept the game close through the first quarter trailing by just one at 15-14. In the second quarter, Spring Valley started to pull away and went up 29-20 at the half. Fort Mill kept it close in the second half but was outscored 20-16. Fort Mill finished the season at 9-18 overall.

Nation Ford girls’ basketball team lost 70-28 to the 5A No. 1 ranked Rock Hill Bearcats in their first-round playoff game. The Falcons kept it close in the first quarter and were down just eight at 16-8, but Rock Hill’s defense held Nation Ford to just 10 points in the next two quarters as they trailed 53-18 after three quarters. The Falcons finished the season at 6-20 overall.

Mac Banks:, @fortprep

Carter Hendrick drives the ball to the basket during Catawba Ridge’s game at AC Flora Thursday evening.