Dreams of state championship dashed

  • Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Chris Sokoloski/Times
Carvers Bay’s Da’Shaun Aiken puts up a shot against Whale Branch in the Class A Lower State championship in Florence. Aiken had 27 points in the Bears’ 73-60 loss to the Warriors.

Carvers Bay loses 73-60 to Whale Branch in Lower State final

By Chris Sokoloski

For the second time in three years, the Carvers Bay boys basketball team ended its season with a loss in the Lower State final.
In 2010, Hemingway ended the Bears’ season. This time it was Whale Branch.
“I’m very proud of my kids,” Carvers Bay coach Jeff Mezzatesta said. “I’m proud of what they did for our community, proud of what they did for our school, and how they represented our school.”
Several buses full of Carvers Bay fans made the trip to the Florence Civic Center to support the Bears.
“I was overwhelmed by how many people from our communities turned out to support [us],” Mezzatesta said.
The teams traded baskets early in the game to a 9-8 Whale Branch advantage, before the Warriors went on a small run to extend their lead to 16-8.
“I felt like in the beginning we came out kind of slow,” said Carvers Bay’s Da’Shaun Aiken, the Class A Player of the Year. “The younger ones never felt that kind of atmosphere.”
Baskets by Shayton Durand and Aiken, and an Aiken free throw, cut the Whale Branch lead to 16-13, but the Warriors scored the next seven points to lead 23-13 at the end of the first quarter.
Aiken scored seven points during a 9-3 run by the Bears in the opening minutes of the second quarter to cut the lead to 26-22.
After back-to-back Whale Branch baskets, a basket by Nigel Gamble and two free throws by Aiken left the Bears trailing 29-25 with 4:15 left in the first half.
And that’s when Carvers Bay’s Darius Williams took over.
Williams scored 10 points in the closing minutes of the second quarter to power a 13-8 Carvers Bay run that gave the Bears a 38-37 lead at halftime.
The only thing that stopped the Bears’ momentum was a delay in the game after both of the arena’s scoreboards shut off.
Baskets by both Durands extended the Bears’ lead to 43-40 as the second half started, and then Aiken drove to the basket and collided with a Whale Branch player. One official signaled a charge on Aiken and a second official signaled a block on the Whale Branch player. The first official was overruled and Aiken sank two free throws to make the score 45-40.
A dunk by Shayton Durand put Carvers Bay ahead 47-40 with about five minutes left in the third quarter, but the Bears couldn’t find the basket for the rest of the quarter.
Whale Branch scored 11 straight points to take a 51-47 lead with 8 minutes left in the game.
“Our shot selection was bad a little bit,” Aiken said. “But when we got quality shots they just wouldn’t fall.”
Walter Linnen got the Bears back on the board as the fourth quarter began, and Shayton Durand stopped a small Whale Branch run with a basket at 5:50 to cut the lead to 56-51.
But that was as close as the Bears got.
Whale Branch outscored Carvers Bay 17-9 down the stretch to win 73-60 and earn a trip to the state championship game, where they will face Lewisville.
“It’s very heartbreaking,” Linnen said. “It took us awhile before we got settled. I think the nerves were just biting.”
Aiken had 27 points and five rebounds to lead Carvers Bay.
Shayton Durand had 14 points and six rebounds; Williams had 12 points and 13 rebounds; Shaquan Durand had six points; and Linnen had five rebounds.
This year’s seniors – Aiken, both Durands, Linnen, Gamble and Rayshad Dorsey – is a special group for Mezzatesta. He’s been coaching some of them since they were in fourth-grade.
“I’ll never forget this team,” he said.
Even though he is losing four starters to graduation, Mezzatesta is excited about where the program is headed. The junior varsity team finished second in the region this season.
“There’s some really good young talent coming,” Mezzatesta said.
“I think they can hold it down as long as they put in the hard work and dedication,” Shaquan Durand said.
Mezzatesta believes Williams could develop into one of the best players in the state.
“I love where the program is going,” Mezzatesta said. “We’re building a traditional. … Were going to get over that hump one day.”

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