SPARTANBURG, S.C. — Zion Williamson once again demonstrated his innate ability to play basketball.
The All-American forward showed Monday night why he is among the best high school players in the country as he scored 37 points — including his 3,000th career point — to go with 10 rebounds, five steals and four blocked shots, including a pair that echoed throughout Jerry Richardson Indoor Stadium on the campus of Wofford College, as Spartanburg Day cruised to an 82-51 win over Spartanburg Christian in the opening round of the SCISA Region Tournament.
“Zion has a way of just letting the game come to him,” said Spartanburg Day coach Lee Sartor. “He does all of the intangible stuff that you can’t coach. He got some steals, got some rebounds, he really just blew the game open.”
It did not take the Griffins long to establish their dominance over their arch-rivals, who they defeated for the third time in as many tries this season.
Using a balanced effort led by a senior cast, the Griffins raced out to a 9-1 lead in the first quarter and never trailed. It took a few minutes for Williamson to get going, but once he started, he did not let up.
After Spartanburg Christian cut the deficit to 13-6, Williamson blocked Warriors guard Max Tate’s shot into the media area beyond the baseline. Then he went crazy on the offensive end as he hit a pair of baskets, threw down a two-handed slam and then elevated with a 360-dunk that brought the crowd to its feet.
“It’s all about the team effort,” Sartor said. “But it’s good to have Zion on the team to do what he does. I am so proud of him.”
Williamson ended the first quarter with 13 points, compared to Spartanburg Christian, who only had 12 points as a team and trailed 28-12. He continued to pour it on in the second quarter.
Williamson scored the first three buckets of the quarter for the Griffins, including a windmill dunk off of a steal from guard Chandler Lindsey and then a two-handed slam off of a missed shot, and finally a layup as he was falling away from the basket that prompted the Warriors to call a timeout. On the very next possession, Williamson followed up a missed shot by for his 21st point of the first half and the 3,000th of his illustrious career.
“You know me,” Williamson said afterwards when asked about the rare feat. “I’m not much of a self-accolades person. I’m just out there trying to get the win. When they told me during a timeout, I smiled because it’s nice, but I want us to finish it off and do what we need to do.”
The Griffins extended their lead to 53-27 at halftime and stayed on the court during the intermission to practice shooting. Although, they did not need the extra practice, as they continued their dominance in the third quarter by using a full-court press to limit the Warriors to only six points as they extended the lead to 72-33 on a layup by Williamson.
“It’s very hard to beat a rival team three times in a row,” Williamson said. “Coach Sartor had us focused in the right direction by not allowing us to get complacent and get caught up in the rivalry, and the game came to us.”
Senior guard Kyle Tracy added 15 points for Spartanburg Day, while Lindsey dished out five assists.
“We did what we were supposed to do tonight and to beat a team for a third time is usually difficult,” said Sartor. “I like the way we stay focused, and I like the way we finished the game. We just have to continue to focus and beat another team for the third time (Shannon Forest) tomorrow night.”
The Griffins will face the Crusaders in the championship game of the tournament, something that a lot of Griffins fans have been hoping for.
“This is what we have wanted all season,” said Morgan Cone, a Griffins fan. “I came to see Zion dunk and us [to] win.”
Highlights courtesy of Mars Reel.