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Spartanburg Stays Perfect in Region; Beats Boiling Springs

It is a cliche. But it still stands true and is worth the repetition because this week has been the perfect exemplification of it. What is that cliche? That every game in Region 2-5A is an all-out war that cannot be taken for granted. 


Friday night’s “war” was between 2 resurgent teams under new leadership. Spartanburg, under Caleb Gaither’s guidance, was riding a hot hand, having won 5 of their last 6 games, including a big 50-44 upset of Byrnes back on January 10th to start region play. That success has come using great defense and clutch shooting. 


Craig Martin’s Boiling Springs Bulldogs, after a 7 game win streak early on in non-region play,  had slowed down a bit, having dropped 7 of their last 10 games. They got back on track with their first region win of the season against Gaffney 67-55 back on Tuesday night, and despite their losses, have still played well lately. They fell to Byrnes on a 3 at the horn after rallying to take a 1 point lead, and held their own against Dorman before the Cavaliers’ depth and talent took over in the final 8 minutes. 


Friday night at Viking Arena, in what is a natural rivalry, the Bulldogs were looking to knock Spartanburg from the top of the region standings (where they were tied with Dorman) as well as build more of a cushion between them and Gaffney for 4th place (which would be significant to helping them ensure they make the playoffs). Long story short, it was sure to be a thriller and a good measuring stick for just where these 2 programs stand in relation to each other in their “rebuilds”. 


The game got off to a fantastic start for the Vikings. Spartanburg came out with a great game plan to limit the Bulldogs’ offense, which has thrived this season on Tre Locklear and company being able to drive the lane and get quick baskets. The Vikes swarmed to the ball, absolutely smothering the Bulldogs and keeping them from being able to get inside, forcing them to have to settle for a lot of threes. When the Bulldogs did manage to get a run to the hoop, they simply could not get their shots to fall or rebound. 


To compound matters for the Dogs, Spartanburg also came out shooting the lights out from three point range – something they were able to do with relative ease all night long, thanks in part to Boiling Springs leaving J’Bari Miller and Brailun Thomas wide open a few times. Overall, the Vikings made 14 three pointers in the game. Five of those were by Miller, and all 5 Viking starters made a three. 


Despite the effective defense and strong shooting from Spartanburg early on, Boiling Springs was able to keep pace thanks to WJ Fowler and Tre Locklear. Fowler tallied 8 points with 2 big 3s in the first quarter, while Locklear logged 5. After a period, it was 16-13 in favor of the Vikings. 


In the 2nd stanza, Spartanburg continued to stick to what was working for them – continuing to shoot the lights out, The Vikings scored 17 points in the 2nd, 15 of which came on 5 deep balls. Boiling Springs still struggled to get shots to fall, resulting in a 33-25 deficit at the intermission.


Now, take everything I just summarized from the 1st half and flip it. That is what happened in the 2nd half. The Bulldogs came out shooting strong early, opening the third quarter with back to back 3s from Landon Sprouse and London Hogan. The Bulldogs also managed to hold down the Vikings offense, limiting them to just 7 points in the frame (compared to BSHS’ 13).. Sprouse logged 8 points in the stanza that was not without its controversy. 


There were 2 big calls in the 3rd quarter that would set the stage for the wild finish to the night. The first was an instance where there was a foul that should have resulted in a 1 and 1 for the Bulldogs. Instead, it was ruled not to be a shooting foul, meaning Boiling Springs would just get to inbound it. After allowing play to continue, eventually the referees blew it dead and got together for a lengthy discussion. Six times playing through the theme from “Jeopardy” later, the answer was a Daily Double for Tre Locklear, as he was sent to the line and sank both free throws, making for a 40-36 Viking lead with 7 ticks left in the quarter. 


The 2nd interesting call came on the very last play of the 3rd period, when Spartanburg put up a jumper for 2 at the buzzer and made it. The referees, after a much less lengthy chat, determined that the shot was late, thus erasing the basket, although it looked as if the ball was well out of his hand before the light came on around the backboard. 


Now for the 4th quarter that the word “wild” would be woefully insufficient of an adjective to describe. Trailing by 2 with the Vikings struggling to score over the first few minutes of the frame, Boiling Springs had several wide open looks for a three to take the lead. London Hogan consistently found himself in that situation only to be off the mark each time he went to take the shot – not just during that early stretch, but for the duration of the quarter. 


The Bulldogs finally got a clutch shot to fall on a midrange jumper for 2 from WJ Fowler that tied the game at 42 with 4:27 to play. Fowler was immediately called for a technical after the shot went in, sending J’Bari Miller to the line for 2. He split them, making for a 1 point lead. Over the next 3:00, both squads traded baskets, and the Vikes led 48-46. 


Boiling Springs once again managed to tie the game with a pair of clutch free throws from London Hogan before the Vikings blew the roof of the place with back to back threes to open up a 54-48 lead with just :26 to play. But, the resilient Bulldogs were not done yet. 


Down 6, Boiling Springs was forced to foul to get additional possessions. The Vikings went just 2 of 3 at the line in the final seconds. On the flipside, BSHS took advantage of the Vikings’ fouls, going 4-4 down that stretch, including two huge free throws from Tre Locklear that cut it back to a 2 possession game. 


Locklear also nailed a massive three pointer from the top of the key to cut the deficit to a point on the Bulldogs’ next possession. Following a foul and a miss on the 1 and 1 that could have salted it away for the Vikings by Brailun Thomas, Boiling Springs got the ball back trying to set up a game winning shot at the buzzer. The Vikings broke down the court quickly in transition and kept the Dogs from getting anyone open for the look they wanted, leading to a desperation heave from just past half court. It was tipped and the Vikings survived for the 56-55 win to remain undefeated in region play at 3-0, and tied with Dorman, whom they will face on the road Tuesday night in the first edition of the City Rivalry this season. 


Spartanburg, now 8-11 overall, was led by J’Bari Miller with 20 points. Brailun Thomas tallied 11, while Ezekiel Bell-Boyd and Dyllan Harris scored 9 each. 


The Bulldogs, who are now 10-10 overall and 1-3 in II-5A were led by Tre Locklear with 15 points. Landon Sprouse logged 14 while WJ Fowler had 10. Reese Walter just missed double figures with 9 points. 


Following their tilt with Dorman on Tuesday night at 7:30, the Vikings will have a rematch with the Byrnes Runnin’ Rebels in Duncan Friday with a 7:30 tipoff. 


Boiling Springs also has a tough week ahead, hosting TL Hanna Tuesday night with tip set for 7:30 PM and will follow that up with a home rematch against Dorman. Tip for that game is also set for 7:30. 


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