Lowndes Academy girls basketball coach Jeff Lovell hoped that the inexperience of his squad wouldn’t show up at the wrong time.
And after an effective opening half by his young group, Lovell’s fear stayed dormant.
Then the second half started.
“It seemed like every time we had a chance to change the momentum, we had a turnover or missed layup,” Lovell said following his team’s 36-31 setback to Pickens Academy in Friday’s AISA Class AA state championship game. “Those are the downers. You have an opportunity to do something, and you kind of blow it. Maybe youth and inexperience played a part in that.”
Lowndes (15-9) carried a roster filled with inexperienced underclassmen onto the season’s biggest stage at Huntingdon’s Roland Arena.
“I can’t be upset at their efforts,” Lovell, who started a pair of ninth-graders and a middle schooler. “We said we couldn’t lose in this game no matter the outcome. They did a heck of a job to get here, and I am just proud of them.”
After slowing the red-hot Pirates and holding an 18-16 edge at intermission, things quickly began to unravel for Lovell’s youthful bunch. Costly turnovers and missed scoring opportunities resulted in a dismal five-point third quarter by the Rebels.
All wasn’t lost though. With Pickens (22-3) struggling mightily at the line in the fourth quarter, Lowndes had an opportunity to potentially tie after Carman Till knocked down a jumper from the top of the key to make it 33-31 with less than 30 seconds left.
However, tournament MVP Marion Colvin and Kacy Roland made 3-of-4 free throws to secure Pickens’ third state hoops title in school history. The Pirates also captured the state championship in 2010 under Goodman’s watch.
“It don’t matter win or lose, at the end of the season you are wore out,” Pickens coach Wade Goodman said. “It’s stressful coaching basketball, I also coach softball and softball is nothing like this. …The first one was sweet, but this one is really sweet.”
It was the third time the two private schools met on the court this season. The Pirates — who closed out the year with an eight-game winning streak — came out on top in all three games, including an 18-point victory during the regional tournament earlier this month.
“I told the girls earlier in the year that if we play bad we’ll lose, but if we play decent we’re going to be hard to beat” Goodman said.