SUMTER, S.C. — Zion Williamson saved his best for last.
In his final game of his high school career, the All-American posted a double-double of 37 points and 17 rebounds, and blocking six shots, to lead Spartanburg Day to its third consecutive Class AA State Championship with a 74-41 win over Trinity-Byrnes.
“It’s the best feeling in the world, and the best experience I’ve felt so far,” said Williamson when asked about the Griffins three-peat. “Three championships in a row, I can’t describe it with the right words.”
Williamson’s performance Saturday afternoon at the Sumter Civic Center was one of, if not the best of this season. With Spartanburg Day clinging to a 30-24 lead at halftime, and struggling by its standards, it was Williamson, who had 14 points and 11 rebounds in the first half, that took over in the third quarter.
He opened the quarter with a steal and a thunderous dunk that seemed to ignite the Griffins offensively and defensively. He then grabbed three straight defensive rebounds as Spartanburg Day went to a 1-3-1 zone and started to become more aggressive — limiting the Titans offensively and forcing them to take several bad shots, as the Griffins went on a 19-3 run.
“We held that 1-3-1 in our back pocket and used it just when we needed to,” said Spartanburg Day coach Lee Sartor. “It was good because our length bothered them and we took away their offensive threats and made some other guys make some plays and I think that was the deciding factor in the game.”
After another Williamson basket gave the Griffins their biggest lead of the game at 36-24, senior forward Matt Brown, who was one of four Griffin players named to the All-Tournament Team, scored another basket to make it 38-24. Williamson then grabbed his 15th rebound of the game that led to a transition basket for senior guard Kyle Tracy, one of Williamson’s best friends and another All-Tournament selection, who was fouled on the play and converted on a free-throw attempt.
Williamson scored four of the Griffins’ next five baskets to make it 49-24, and then his defense took over. With Trinity-Byrnes trailing 49-27 and in desperate need of a basket, Titans guard CJ Miles attempted a three-point shot from the left corner, but Williamson swatted the shot into the stands. Moments later, with 33 seconds remaining in the quarter, the Titans scored their first field goal of the period,after the Griffins limited them to only three free throws.
“Right before we came out (from halftime), I told my teammates that y’all have to have the mentality that ‘killers kill,’ so when we got up by 15 and we started to see them give it up, the floodgates opened up for us and we started throwing it off the backboard and doing some fancy dunks and make the gym silent for them,” said Williamson.
While the gym may have seemed quiet for the Titans, the crowd went wild in the fourth quarter as Williamson continued to dominate, this time showing off some of the dunks that fans came to see.
Leading comfortably at 56-29, Williamson took a pass and threw down wicked windmill dunk that brought the crowd to its feet. A few minutes later, he took a pass in transition and tossed down a powerful reverse dunk. Moments later, he showed off his offensive arsenal on two consecutive possessions by driving past his defender and delivering a pair of left-handed Lebron James-type of slams that sealed the win.
“He is one of the greatest players who has ever played in South Carolina,” Sartor said about Williamson. “Not to take anything away from the other guys, they are great players too, but I think he has a chance to one day – and he has to continue to work and God has to make sure he stays healthy – to be the best player to ever play.”
After watching as his senior teammates were removed from the game to standing ovations from the Spartanburg Day fans who made the long trip, it was Williamson’s turn to come off the court for the final time. Waving his arms, the senior embraced his coaches, teammates with giant hugs.
“Yes, sir,” he said, after being asked whether he was trying to savor the moment and not wanting to come out of the game.
“He’s a great, great player,” said Harold Jones, a fan who was in attendance. “I don’t remember anyone like him from around here in all of my time.”
(Highlights courtesy of Mars Reel)