When the 2018-19 season began, coach Bailey Harris knew he had a talented team that played well together. In the highly competitive Region 5, he felt his team was good enough for a 3rd, maybe a 2nd place finish.
The Wildcats opened a storybook season by breezing through the first 3 rounds of the Lake Murray Tip Off and defeating White Knoll in the final to win the tournament. Seven more wins followed, including home and away victories against Irmo. As they boarded the bus for a holiday tournament in Florida, Lexington was off to an 11-0 start.
At the Sandestin Beach Basketball Blowout, the Cats displayed more dominating play, easily winning in the first 3 rounds and then hung on to edge a very good Cookeville (TN) team in the final. They rang in the New Year as they traveled back to Lexington with a 15-0 record. By this time it was becoming apparent that this was a special group of guys. A year prior, with just 2 seniors, the same roster posted a 14-12 season record.
The Wildcats entered Region play at White Knoll on January 8th and dropped he Timberwolves 58-49, increasing the streak to 18 straight, the most ever in school history to start a season.
After a 20 point win at Pelion, the Cats handled region opponents Dutch Fork, Chapin, River Bluff, and White Knoll on home hardwood to go 23-0. The hallmark of this team was good basketball IQ, shot selection, ball protection, and intensity on both sides of the floor, contesting every play.
Next came the theatrics that will always be part of Wildcat basketball history. After trailing the entire game at Dutch Fork, the Cats made a run late in the 4th quarter. With the score tied, Mason Carver drove the lane and scored on a left-handed layup with just 0.4 seconds remaining to give Lexington the lead and ultimately the win.
Six days later at River Bluff it again looked like a loss was imminent. The Wildcats trailed most of the game and were down by as many as 10 points in the 2nd half. Four Cats contributed 3-point plays in the final 2 minutes to draw the game even. Again the ball was in the hands of Mason Carver, this time on an isolation play, as he hit a jumper from 15 feet for the win. The regular season ended with a Region Championship, the first in 6 years, and the streak was intact at 26 straight.
Next came home playoff wins over South Florence (43-33), Goose Creek (64-40), and Conway (61-49) to punch a ticket to the Lower State Finals, Lexington’s first in 7 years. Against Berkeley at the Florence Civic Center, the Cats got off to an early lead, but that lead would change hands several times throughout the evening. In the end, the Wildcats came up short, 47-42.
The season ended with a 29-1 record. The Bailey Harris era was also complete with a total of 637 wins in 32 seasons, a winning rate of .712. During that run, Wildcats teams posted only 2 losing seasons and lost only 1 home playoff game.
After the game, Coach Harris commented, “I couldn’t have picked 14 guys that I’d rather go into war with than that bunch. Tonight we couldn’t contain them inside and weren’t able to get offensive rebounds, but not because we didn’t battle and fight.”
Nine players will be lost to graduation including Mason Carver. In his senior year, Carver scored 595 points, a 19.9 per game average. He joined the elusive 1000-point Club and is now has the 5th highest boy’s career total with 1189 points. Bradley Foulks was also a leader of the team with 297 points and a career tally of 647. Ryan Green and Jonathan Corley were effective ball handlers and good on the assist and scored 171 and 290 respectively. During the previous season, Will Edwards managed a single 3-pointer. This season he popped 52 from long-range en-route to 203 points. Joe Long had a breakout year as well with dominating play on the boards and 110 points. Seniors Gavin Singleton, Forrest Alvarez, and Jackson Hilton also contributed to the historic season.
Returning for the 2019-20 season will be varsity players Dylan Rivers, Alex Reed, Tristan Allen, Taylor Mathias, and Keldric Bouknight.