Eagles pull 2nd place finish in SCISA Class A state finals

Pictured with assistant coaches Daniel Bonds, left, and Justin Blackwelder, right, Bennett Nicholson, Kitt Nicholson, Travis Bonds, Eli Smith, Ethan Steward, Miller Stuck, Lawson Wade, Charlie Bonds, Jacob Chaisson, Landon Caulder, Rob Wilson & Drew Spires. Head Coach Nick Chaisson is behind B. Nicholson.

SUMTER – The stage was set in Sumter on Saturday, Feb. 25 for a noon tip off in the SCISA Class A State Championship boys’ basketball game. Richard Winn Academy’s varsity team went deep into the playoffs and advanced to the final round against the Faith Christian Knights of Summerville.

Despite both teams entering the title game with impressive records, (RWA 22-3, FCA 27-2), it was the Knights who earned the championship title with a 54-40 win.

In the program’s first championship appearance since 1997, Eagles head coach Nick Chaisson made sure his team understood the depth of their accomplishments.

“I told them that they had done something special by winning the region outright and earning the right to play for the state title,” said head coach Nick Chaisson. “It’s a great opportunity. Enjoy the moment.”

Though it had been 25 years since the Eagles had graced a title game, it had been even longer since they cut the net – over 35 years. The most recent team to claim the title was in 1986.

For the 2022 Eagles, a team that controlled the tempo for most of its season, Saturday’s change of pace was quickly evident.

Faith got the tipoff control, but a quick turn over gave the Eagles their first possession. Working the ball around the perimeter, Richard Winn’s Landon Caulder put the first points on the board from behind the arc with just under a minute off the clock.

That would be the Eagles’ only lead of the game as the Knights’ Omari Johnson quickly answered back with a 3-pointer to tie the game.

Able to capitalize on some costly Eagle turnovers, Faith Christian went up 10-3 with just under two minutes remaining in the first quarter. The Eagles got back on the board with a three-pointer from junior Miller Stuck at the 1:41 mark.

The two teams exchanged 2-point baskets before Faith’s Christian Hewett scored on a put-back with five seconds remaining in the first quarter. The Eagles trailed 8-14.

Richard Winn had possession to start the second quarter, but it didn’t take long for the Knights to up the ante, forcing turnovers that kept the Eagle offense out of sync.

While Lawson Wade was the only Eagle to score in the second quarter with a long 3-point attempt, the Knight offense seemed to be a well-oiled machine. They added 16 points to take a 30-11 halftime lead.

The Eagles got to work in the third, whittling away at the lead. They dropped the deficit to 15 (39-24) with the final 8 minutes of play remaining.

Back-to-back scores early in the fourth by Stuck and Drew Spires narrowed the gap to 11, and the Eagle fans came to life.

Feeling the momentum shifting away, Faith’s offense ignited for six unanswered points before RWA could stop play with a time out to re-group. Only 5:03 remained, and the Eagles faced a 45-28 deficit.

Faith added five to their lead before Wade drove the lane for two with 3:50 left on the clock. On their next possession, Wade was fouled on an offensive rebound score and made good on the 3-point play.

Down 54-33 with 2:42 remaining, Wade suffered a knee injury that forced him out for the remainder of the game. Following an injury timeout, play continued with Eagle Kitt Nicholson knocking down a 3-pointer from the left side, 54-36. With just a little over a minute remaining, Travis Bonds was fouled and hit the first of his two free throw attempts, 54-37. T. Bonds then hit a 3-point basket with five seconds left to close out the scoring totals, 54-40. 

Despite winning the second half offensively, the first half deficit proved too great for the Eagles (22-4), finishing as the SCISA Class A State Runners-Up.

Wade, the team’s season-leading scorer, once again led the pack with 15 points, nine rebounds and six blocks. Stuck added nine points.

After a first round bye, the Eagles eliminated Ragin Prep from the playoffs with a 57-28 final, then, en route to the Saturday’s title game, the Eagles bumped Charleston Collegiate in the third round on Thursday with a 60-45 win. Both games were played at Hammond School.

Wade led the Eagles with 18 points against Ragin Prep. Spires had 15 and Stuck chipped in 11.

Pacing the Eagle offense against Charleston Collegiate was Spires with 23 points. Wade was hot on his heels with 20 points, 14 rebounds, six assists, and six blocks. Spires also had three assists, two rebounds and two steals. Stuck added nine points, two rebounds, three assists, and six steals. Rob Wilson pulled down 10 rebounds, and Landon Caulder had seven rebounds.

Following the championship game, Wade and Spires were both selected and honored as two of the six member SCISA A All-Tournament Team.

Finals: FCA 54, RWA 40

FCA – 14-16-9-15 – 54

RWA – 8-3-13-16 – 40

RWA: Wade 15, Stuck 9, Caulder 6, T. Bonds 4, K. Nicholson 3, Spires 3.

Semifinals: RWA 60, CCHS 45

RWA: Spires 23, Wade 20, Stuck 9, Caulder 4, Wilson 2, C. Bonds 2.

Quarterfinals: RWA 57, RPCA 28

RWA: Wade 18, Spires 15, Stuck 11, Caulder 5, Wilson 4, Chaisson 2, C. Bonds 2.

Eagles Drew Spires, left, a junior, and senior Lawson Wade were named to the SCISA Class A All-Tournament team. Wade finished the three-game tournament with 53 points, 31 rebounds and 13 blocks. Spires had 41 points and 11 assists in the three-game stretch. | Photos: RWA

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