The Goose Creek boys basketball team prides itself on holding opponents to under 40 points.
Conway managed 41 Tuesday night and it was just enough to give the Tigers a 41-40 victory and a berth in the lower state finals for the first time.
Also, Conway’s victory denied Goose Creek an opportunity to place both its boys and girls teams in the lower state finals.
Conway coach Michael Hopkins said the third time was the charm for the Tigers, who lost in the third round of the state playoffs each of the previous two seasons.
The difference was a home game this year, compared to traveling in 2018 and 2019.
“Home court advantage,” Hopkins said. “We’ve been getting to this point the last couple of years and had to go on the road. Conway showed up and showed out. It was a great game and a great atmosphere. I’m glad we came out on the winning side.”
Conway led the entire game until the Gators’ Demetri Simmons nailed a three-point bomb with 2:09 remaining for a 40-39 advantage.
Carlton Terry Jr. sank a basket for Conway with 1:41 remaining and neither team scored again.
After Simmons missed a shot for Goose Creek, Tim Steele missed the front end of a one-and-one with 37.1 seconds left to give the visitors another chance.
Simmons, who led Goose Creek with 14 points, missed on an opportunity to retake the lead, and the Gators again fouled Steele with 17.3 seconds remaining.
Steele again missed the first free throw and Simmons again failed on a shot from long distance.
Elijah Huffman missed the front end of a one-and-one with 3.9 seconds left to give the Gators a final chance.
Steele then drew a charge from Yaturi Bolton inside the midcourt line as the horn sounded.
“We had to play defense,” said senior center Tonka Hemingway. “You can’t give ‘em a good shot. They had a good team. They gave us a run for our money. It feels really good to get to lower state in any sport.”
Hemingway led Conway with 18 points and Terry tallied 8. Jamarious Woodbury scored six, Elijah Huffman canned four, Steele had three and Zay Kinlaw rounded out the scoring with 2.
Hopkins was pleased with the Tigers’ team effort.
“That’s who we are,” he said. “I told them we would get it done as a team. Tonight’s game is so fitting.”
Conway will play Dutch Fork in the lower state finals Saturday at 6:30 p.m. in the Florence Civic Center.
“It’s going to be another grueling game,” Hopkins said. “It’s one step away from getting to Columbia.”
The winner of Saturday’s game will play for the state championship March 6 at USC’s Colonial Life Arena.