Lexington completes first-ever undefeated regular season
The first-ever undefeated regular season by the Lexington boys’ basketball team was earned in dramatic fashion Thursday night in “The Swamp”.
Senior guard Mason Carver’s floater with .9 seconds left gave the third-ranked Wildcats a 58-56 victory over archrival and seventh ranked River Bluff. The victory completed a 26-0 regular season which included claiming the Region 5-5A championship with an 8-0 mark.
This was also the second game-winner in a week for Carver, who finished with a game-high 26 points, and capped a comeback from as many as 10 points down in the second half.
“It was a tough game,” Carver said. “We were battling behind the whole time, but we go through those end of game situations every practice, so we were prepared for that. Just like at Dutch Fork (Carver’s layup with .4 seconds left gave the Wildcats a 46-44 win), we were prepared for that. Coach (Bailey) Harris prepares us for that. We just run our stuff and trust to make plays.”
Much like another former Wildcat/head coach, the Gators’ Benjamin Lee had his team prepared with a gameplan in the rematch. Using the height advantage to dominate in the post River Bluff ran its offense through senior forward J.T. Reeves who delivered a team-high 19 points.
“We’re bigger, so we wanted to be bigger,” he said. “We wanted to get as much stuff in the paint as we could. We felt like those were the type of shots we wanted. Those would lead to the type of offensive rebounds that we would have the advantage to get and try to contain Carver as best you can.”
When Reeves was not frustrating the Wildcats down low, Terrill Windom and Andrew Robinson provided outside shooting. They combined for 25 points and were near-perfect from the field early in the fourth quarter.
Back-to-back three-pointers by Jonathan Corley, who had 10 points, and Ryan Green, who finished with 11, helped Lexington tie the game at 50-50. River Bluff answered with four straight points, including a one-handed alley-oop slam dunk by Booker Cusaac off the assist from Windom.
A three-point play by Carver with 1:15 left brought the Wildcats to within 54-53. With 26 seconds left, Bradley Foulks connected on a three-pointer to give Lexington a 56-54 lead. It was the senior’s only field goal of the night.
Reeves was fouled with 12.9 seconds left and made both free throws. On the final possession, Carver went into isolation, drove between two River Bluff defenders, and pulled up from another eight feet to float a short jumper into the nets.
Celebratory Lexington students stormed the floor and even tossed confetti onto the floor in the visitor’s section. Once order was restored, River Bluff attempted a fullcourt inbounds pass that was intercepted, fittingly by Carver, to end the game.
“I think the biggest thing is just to win in a hostile environment, in a playoff atmosphere against a really good team,” said Lexington head coach Bailey Harris, who picked up his 634th career win and improved to 7-0 this season against his former players. “I’m not sure we don’t see River Bluff again. I think they’re as good as anybody in the Lower State and I would not be shocked that if we can win, that we see them again. They’re very good, they’re well-coached. They’re good.”
Lexington will open the playoffs Wednesday at Wildcat Gymnasium and have homefield advantage through the first three rounds.