Bears to play for Lower State title
By Chris Sokoloski
Carvers Bay’s boys basketball team beat Johnsonville on Tuesday night and will play Whale Branch for the Lower State title on Saturday afternoon.
“They’re a lot like us, very athletic,” said Bears coach Jeff Mezzatesta. “They’re a very, very good team.”
The 23-3 Warriors have been No. 1 in the state in Class A for most of the season. They are averaging 67 points per game, while giving up 48 points per game.
Carvers Bay is 20-7 and is averaging 64 points per game, while giving up 54 points per game.
“Anytime you get to this level it comes down to who makes the least mistakes and who plays the hardest,” Mezzatesta said. “And we have to take advantage of [all] opportunities.”
The teams played a scrimmage last summer, and the Warriors traveled from Beaufort for the annual Bear Jam.
Whale Branch steam-rolled through the first two rounds of the Lower State playoffs, beating Cross 80-33 and Timmonsville 62-46, and then held off C.E. Murray 67-60 in the semi-finals.
This is the second time Carvers Bay boys basketball team has played for the Lower State title. The Bears lost to Hemingway in 2010. The Tigers then went on to win the state championship.
Playing away from home will be a challenge for the Bears. Six of their seven losses this season were on the road.
“When we go on the road it’s going to be a big test for us,” Mezzatesta said.
“It’s going to be totally different,” said senior Da’Shaun Aiken, who was named Class A Player of the year last week. “Different rims, different floor, and we’re not at home any more. So it’s going to be totally different.”
The winner of the Carvers Bay/Whale Branch game will take on the winner of the Christ Church/Lewisville game on March 2 at the Colonial Life Arena in Columbia.
On Tuesday, Carvers Bay beat Johnsonville 75-55 in front of a sold-out crowd. Fans who arrived late for the game were forced to stand outside.
The Bears built a 20-17 lead in the first quarter, and extended it to 40-29 at halftime.
A strong first two minutes of the second half gave Carvers Bay momentum and the Bears went up 61-42 at the end of the third quarter, and outscored the Flashes 14-13 in the fourth for the victory.
“We’ve still got a long way to go,” Mezzatesta said. “We’re still making a lot of costly mistakes that we’ve got to eliminate. We’re a little bit too aggressive sometimes, but I don’t want to slow that down.”
Aiken had 19 points and three rebounds to lead Carvers Bay.
Shayton Durand had 16 points; Darius Williams had 16 points and seven rebounds; Walter Linnen had nine points and three steals; Rayshad Dorsey had five points; and Stefan Hannah had four points.
Linnen said the team would only celebrate Tuesday’s victory for a short time.
“We haven’t done anything yet,” he said. “We still have two more games to go to our goal. Our goal is to win the state championship.”
Mezzatesta said the win was “sweet, but bittersweet” because Flashes coach Harris Avant is one of his best friends.
“I have a lot of respect for Johnsonville, and Johnsonville athletics,” Mezzatesta said. “I taught a lot of their children.”
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