After squandering 4th quarter lead, River Bluff falls to Spring Valley, 67-63
Barrage of late fouls hurt Gators in road loss to Vikings
Columbia, SC (James Bowers) - To the casual observer, Ben Lee’s River Bluff basketball club was doing everything right in the first three quarters of play at Spring Valley High School Friday night. They played aggressive defense, collected turnovers, and shot with success. River Bluff went into the locker room at halftime with a 28-23 lead, and it looked as though the Gators were set to avenge a one-point home loss to the Vikings in January.
The boys from “The Bluff” built leads of six or more points several times during the opening three frames. The Gators always came back and were out front by a 49-39 count going into the fourth, however. In the last quarter, Spring Valley regained momentum. Shots started going down, and they drew River Bluff fouls picking up precious free throw points in the process. The Vikings were also strong on defense and blocked many of the Gator shots. They forced turnovers and tied the game at 52 at one point. When SVHS Guard Jamal Williams hit the go-ahead three pointer to give the 55-52 lead to the home squad with less than two minutes to play, the emotion of the partisan home crowd was palpable.
River Bluff picked up a bucket to cut the lead to one, 55-54, but the momentum swing was stalled when the Gators picked up a foul and gave SVHS some additional free throw opportunities. This situation would actually repeat itself on a number of occasions during the closing moments of the game; Spring Valley’s final seven points consisted entirely of foul shots. River Bluff closed the lead to three in the late going, but one last foul let the Vikings put the game out of reach, 67-63. The loss drops the Gators to 17-7, 5-6 in region play. The Vikings jump to 11-8, with a 7-3 Region 5-5A record, which is good enough for second place in the league.
River Bluff was led in scoring by JT Reeves and Andrew Robinson, who had 17 points each during the game. Jermaine Spencer and Ram Matthews each had 8 for the Gators as well. Spring Valley’s scoring charge was headed by Jamal Williams, who picked up 18 Viking points. Julian Smith had 12 points, while Jacobie Elkins added 10 for SVHS.
River Bluff will play its regular season finale against Irmo at the Karl. S Lowman Activities Center on February 6. The Region 5-5A standings show the Gators in fourth place, making a playoff bid likely.
Spring Valley will close its home schedule on Tuesday against the Silver Foxes of Dutch Fork. Their regular season finale comes on February 9 with a road game against 5-5A champion Blythewood. With a second place region finish looming, the Vikings are poised for a favorable seed in the payoffs.