Hawks' dream season ends
Charles Prince, Hartselle Enquirer
BIRMINGHAM – The Danville Hawks dream season came to an end last Wednesday night when the Sumter County Wildcats won their 3A boys' state championship semi-final match-up, 59-54. The Hawks were attempting to reach the state championship game for the first time since 1992.
The Wildcats jumped to an early 12-2 lead and appeared to be the faster of the two squads.
"We turned the ball over too many times and the they whipped us on the boards," Danville head coach Robert Pope said. "They got us out of our game early. It was hard to play against them because they were so quick and athletic."
The Hawks would tie the game on two occasions, the first at 20-all, thanks to a 10-0 run by Danville senior Nate Orr. With Sumter County leading 20-10, Orr sank a three-point shot, followed by a knifing lay up on the next possession. Seconds later after a Wildcat turnover, Orr sank another three-pointer and then he made two free throws after being fouled on a drive to the hoop.
Once the game was tied, the Wildcats changed defenses and the Hawks inside presence became a factor.
"I had a hot hand early and they came out of their zone," Orr said. "Then we starting going inside to Patrick (Pinchon) and he starting dominating."
Pinchon would score 11 points in the second period after scoring only two in the first eight minutes.
Sumter would move ahead again and lead 33-29 at halftime.
Danville's Matt Young, who did not score in the first half of play, sank a three-pointer just after halftime to pull the Hawks within three, 35-32. The basket would be as close as the Hawks in the third, as the period ended with the Wildcats in front, 46-39.
Sumter County held a nine-point lead much of the second half and was content to slow the pace down in the half after using a run-and-gun style in the opening half.
"We saw we couldn't stay with them man-to-man," Pope said. "We had to go to a zone defense. We weren't able to get the lead and make them play our style of basketball."
Orr, who would foul out with seven seconds remaining, would sink his fourth three-pointer of the game at the beginning of the final period to cut the lead to six points. Danville wouldn't get closer until DJ Bridges nailed a three-point shot at the buzzer to make the final, 59-54.
"Playing in the Final Four is something all of us will remember for a long time," Orr said.
"A lot of 3A teams would love to be where we were at tonight. We fought as hard as we could, but we just came up short."
The Hawks' faithful gave their team a rousing cheer as the game ended, after having stood for the entire contest. Danville senior center Patrick Pinchon gave the Hawks fans credit for Danville reaching the state semi-finals.
"We nicknamed our fans the sixth man because they give us so much energy," Pinchon said. "They get in the opposing players heads and really help us out. We wouldn't have gotten this far without them."
Orr finished with 22 points and three rebounds, while Pinchon had 15 points and seven rebounds. Young finished with eight points, Stratton Garner scored six, and Bridges added three points.
The Hawks ended their season with a 28-3 record.
"These guys never gave up. They played hard today," Pope said.
"They won 28 games. That's something they can be real proud of. This is the best group I've ever had the pleasure of coaching."