By Donald Heath
Special for the Effingham Herald
SPRINGFIELD — Effingham County reserve shooting guard Bryce Rowse began his senior season hoping for more playing time.
And with Rebel football players missing during the basketball preseason, Rowse saw extended action in a scrimmage against Hilton Head.
But extra time turned out to be a curse. The 160-pounder stepped up to draw a charge against an out-of-control Seahawk who outweighed him by probably 50 pounds.
It didn’t go well. Rowse was helped off the court after suffering a broken ankle, a broken nose and a concussion. He missed about two months of the season.
On Friday night against South Effingham, Rowse was playing in just his third game of the season. And he was asked to step up. And he delivered.
Rowse sank three straight 3-pointers in the second half, scoring nine of his team’s 11 points just as the game was getting precariously close, leading the Rebels to a 66-53 victory over the visiting Mustangs.
It was ECHS’ 28th straight victory in the cross-county rivalry dating back to Jan. 6, 2007.
“Playing against South Effingham, it’s all the motivation you need,” Rowse said. “Everyone’s heart is pounding. We had guys out, but we showed we have a bench.”
With three starters missing — Khiry Wallace (elbow injury), Caleb Williams (calf) and Ashley Thompson (quarantined) — and reserve Camdon Seckinger out with a concussion, ECHS received 51 points from players who were on the bench just two weeks ago.
Freshman Jordan Goldwire, who was playing for the Rebels’ ninth-grade team a day earlier, started Friday and led the team with 15 points.
Sophomore Rashad Scott had four 3-pointers and finished with 14 points.
Rowse had 12 points, and his third 3-pointer of the game sparked a 14-2 run two minutes into the fourth quarter and ballooned a six-point lead into a 57-39 rout.
“We had guys missing because of injury and quarantine, but we had some guys do things that we knew they could do,” ECHS coach Jake Darling said. “It gives our team confidence in what we can be. I think we’re still trying to reach our potential.”
In the final minute, Timothy Brown punctuated the victory with a slam dunk that left the near-capacity crowd in a frenzy.
ECHS raised its record to 12-5 overall, 4-4 in Region 2-AAAAAA play. SEHS dropped 5-12, 0-8 in the region.
For the Mustangs, it was their straight competitive outing, but still left them without a win. On Jan. 19, SEHS led No. 5 Richmond Hill at halftime before losing 60-55. Four days before that, the Mustangs relinquished a 10-point lead and fell to Bradwell Institute 57-53.
“We’re trying to change the culture,” said Mustangs first-year coach Jason Napier. “I know what winning basketball looks like. It comes down to rebounding, free throws and (limiting) turnovers. For us, effort hasn’t been a problem, but it always seems one quarter kills us.”
The Rebels won the first matchup between the two teams 61-35 on Dec. 11.
This time, after making the first basket of the second half, SEHS trailed ECHS, 25-23.
But the Rebels maintained the lead behind the shooting of Scott and Rowse before the dreaded run that Napier feared.
“It’s been a Jekyll-and-Hyde thing for us,” Napier said.
Friday, Ameer Pollack led the Mustangs with 13 points. Mitchell Pollard had 12.
Hairston paces Lady Mustangs
In the girls game, freshman Elena Hairston scored 16 of her team-high 20 points in the first half to lead South Effingham past Effingham County, 73-35.
Hairston had 11 points in the first quarter, including a 35-footer at the buzzer, to give the Mustangs a 20-9 advantage.
Laney Dobbs, who finished with 15 points, sank two 3-pointers to begin the second quarter.
Hairston and Dobbs combined for 16 of the team’s 22 points during a 22-4 spurt —11-2 to end the first quarter and 11-2 to start the second quarter —that flipped a close 9-7 game to 31-11, leaving little doubt about the outcome.
SEHS (6-12, 2-6) ended a nine-game losing streak which extended back to Dec. 11 when the Mustangs beat the Rebels 70-25 in their first encounter.
Kalyce Watson led ECHS (2-14, 0-8) with 11 points.