Malakai Brimage of AR Gould brings the ball up the court on a fast break against Greenville in Augusta on Saturday. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)
AUGUSTA — Top-seeded Greenville started the Class D South final with a 9-0 run and ended it with a 13-1 run to win its second consecutive regional title, 43-28, over AR Gould at the Augusta Civic Center on Saturday.
Connor DiAngelo and Evan Bjork led the balanced Lakers (19-2) with 12 points apiece. Ernest Lorange led the third-seeded Bears with nine points and eight rebounds and was named the tournament’s most valuable player. Nigel Brimage added eight points and nine rebounds.
Greenville, which returned everyone from last year’s regional championship, will face D North champion Woodland in the state championship game next Saturday at 2:45 p.m. at the Augusta Civic Center.
The Lakers have made the ACC a home away from home the last two years, winning six in a row.
“I remember in the first round, I shot better here than I did at my own gym,” DiAngelo said. “We’ve been here before and we’re comfortable on this court.”
Greenville maintained the nine-point spread it started with at the end of the first quarter, 14-5. Brimage, a scrappy sophomore guard, helped snap the Bears out of their early funk with a 3-pointer and good hustle.
“There’s another guy that’s come a long way,” said AR Gould coach Chad Sturgis, who had almost complete roster turnover from the team that fell to Greenville in last year’s regional final. “You’re talking about a kid that … last year was averaging less than two points a game, and now he’s one of our leading scorers and he’s our leader on the floor at all times. He’s my voice on the floor.”
After a Nick Foley 3-pointer made it 17-8, the Lakers went ice cold from the floor, missing their last nine shots and going scoreless for the final 6:50 of the half.
“We really stopped them defensively and we got every rebound,” Sturgies said. “Unfortunately, we couldn’t fast break against them. They got back so fast.”
As a result, AR Gould couldn’t take control during Greenville’s slump. The Bears went the final 6:43 of the half without a field goal after Alex Shoureas’ bucket inside made it 17-11. Two Lorange free throws cut the margin to four before halftime.
A putback by Noah Pratt to start the second half got Greenville back on the board. But AR Gould scored the next seven in a row, capped by a Kyle Hurd 3-pointer, to take its first lead of the game with 5:25 left in the third quarter.
Thanks to a Bjork 3 and Nick Caiazzo’s jumper, the Lakers recaptured the lead, 27-25, heading into the fourth.
“We just knew that we had to channel our confidence and play like the team that we are,” DiAngelo said.
“We’re kind of streaky,” Greenville coach Bill Foley said. “They need to see a basket go in, and then it’s kind of contagious. But they worked their way out of it. By the fourth quarter, we hit some really important shots.”
Three-pointers by DiAngelo and Bjork sandwiched around AR Gould’s only basket of the fourth — a layup by Lorange — made it 33-27 with five minutes left.
DiAngelo hit another trey, then fed Devin Boone with a nice touch pass for a layup that put the game out of reach, 39-28, with 1:51 to go.
The Bears shot 1-for-9 in the fourth quarter.
“We went to a zone completely in the second half, trying to make them hurt us from the outside, and they didn’t,” Foley said.
“We’ve been used to having a mismatch on the floor all season,” Sturgis said, “and today we didn’t really have a large mismatch at any position, so we were trying to run our sets and just free up some space. But they were overplaying us. If somebody overplays you, you’re supposed to go by them and make a good decision. We tried to do that. A couple of shots didn’t go our way, and they hit some big ones in the corner.”
Alex Shoureas (34) of AR Gould battles for a rebound with Evan Bjork of Greenville in Augusta on Saturday. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)
Ernest Lorange of AR Gould drives through traffic during Saturday’s game against Greenville in Augusta. Pictured from left are: Noah Pratt, Lorange, Nick Foley, Evan Bjork and Devin Boone. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)
Tristin Chamberlain of AR Gould reaches for the ball while be guarded by Evan Bjork of Greenville in Augusta on Saturday. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)