FLORENCE, S.C. — The Maranatha Christian School Bulldogs had a chance to send Friday’s SCACS 2A quarterfinal into overtime, and that’s all a team can ask for.
Trailing Step of Faith Christian Academy 78-75 with 3.9 seconds left, the Bulldogs’ Bradley Reel moved to the right corner and caught a pass. As time ticked away, Reel — who had already sunk two second-half 3-pointers — was hoping his latest attempt would keep their season alive.
Instead, it clanked off the rim, and the score remained exactly that as the game ended. That left first-year Bulldogs coach Justin Hanna’s team with a 9-5 record.
“Step of Faith is a tough team,” Hanna said. “Our guys left it all out on the court. We just had a couple of things not go our way.”
One of those was Step of Faith’s Jalen Sargent, who scored a game-high 29 points. His three-point play to start the second half gave the Chargers the lead for good at 38-37.
Sargent, who scored 12 points during that pivotal third quarter, was part of a 24-17 run that helped Step of Faith to a 58-48 lead.
But one of Reel’s 3-pointers sparked a Bulldog run that brought them within 59-54 going into the fourth quarter.
Sargent then responded by scoring the fourth quarter’s first four points to halt whatever momentum Maranatha had. Trailing 70-62 with five minutes left, however, the Bulldogs found one more run to make a game of it. An inside jumper by Braiden Bevan, followed by a layup and two free throws from Grant Hanna, moved Maranatha within 70-66 with 3:53 left.
Although Maranatha got within one on three separate occasions after that, the Bulldogs were unable to reclaim the lead. After Maranatha’s final opportunity narrowed the Step of Faith lead to 76-75 on a Bryan Daniel layup, two free throws by Step of Faith’s Jackson Cramer forced Maranatha to attempt a 3-pointer for Friday’s game to be extended.
“I’m just super proud of our guys,” Justin Hanna said. “They played their tails off all year. Tonight wasn’t our night, but I’m so very proud of them.”
The Bulldogs, who won state in 2018, lose three senior starters: Daniel, Brice Byars and Carson Ward. The two starters returning are Hanna and Bevan.
As the Bulldogs look ahead, Justin Hanna said he wanted his conference championship team to embrace the lessons it learned this season.
“Never give up, and that’s what we’ve done all year,” Hanna said. “We had a good run in conference, and we fought hard all season. I’m just really proud of them and hope they can carry on our success next year.”
SOFCA 21 14 24 19 — 78
MCS 20 17 17 21 — 75
STEP OF FAITH CHRISTIAN ACADEMY (78)
Jalen Sargent 29, Thomas Tyler 16, Smith 3, Watkins 2, Battle 7, Jackson Cramer 21,
MARANATHA CHRISTIAN SCHOOL (75)
Daniel 9, Byars 3, Ward 4, Bradley Reel 14, Grant Hanna 24, Braiden Bevan 19, Simon 2.