To understand how dominant a performance the Greenville Christian Saints had in their opening round MAIS playoff 69-36 win over the Tri-County Rebels, look no further than the mathematics of the second quarter.
Tri County scored tripled the amount of points that they scored in the first quarter while the Saints offensive output and shooting percentage declined. Yet the host Saints led 44-18 at the half.
The difference between the teams’ depth, athleticism and talent level was evident from the outset. The Saints pressured passing lanes, forced turnovers and ran out to quick fast break baskets in an opening 9-2 run led by KD Rancifer. Tri County received a boost from its star of the night Dillon Collins who scored two baskets in a row to answer the run. However, the Saints closed the first quarter on an 11-2 run to take a 29-6 lead into the second quarter.
Led by its reserves, the Saints started the second quarter hot from the three point line with Josiah Claiborne, Josh Curtis and DJ Smith converting from downtown.
“We have a number of guys capable of making those shots,” said Greenville Christian head coach Logan Collins. “They just need to have the confidence to keep hunting their shots when they get open.”
Despite growing cold from downtown to close the quarter, the Saints brought the crowd to its feet when Marlon Palmer dove for a loose ball and found teammate Will Riley with a behind the back pass. Riley tipped the ball inside to Daishun Scott who scored at the halftime buzzer.
Three spectacular acrobatic Smith dunks took the wind right out of the Rebels and thwarted any chance of a comeback in the third quarter. Smiths’s first two flushes came courtesy of Will Riley alley oops. On the final dunk of the quarter, he was met by a Tri County defender at the three point line, blew past him and got up for a two handed throw down. The Saints led 62-29 heading into the final quarter. The Saints also played stellar interior defense all night limiting Tri County to only five layups, recording six blocks and altering countless shots.
“That’s our identity,” Collins said. “We hang our hat on our defense and everything that we do flows from it.” Curtis and Smith led the Saints with 22 and 18 respectively. Coleman led Tri-County with 13. Greenville Christian hosts Jackson Academy in the next round on Saturday.
The semifinals of the overall tournament will be played Monday night at Hartfield Academy. The finals will be played Tuesday night at Hartfield Academy.