Sun sets on Razors’ season, Dunlap’s career
By Eric Sprott
GREENVILLE — Going up against defending state champion Southside on Saturday afternoon, the Walhalla High School boys’ basketball team knew it was going to have to put the ball through the hoop at a high clip inside Bon Secours Wellness Arena.
Unfortunately for the Razorbacks, the ball didn’t want to cooperate in the Class 3A Upper State championship game, as they fell 54-46, snapping their 12-game winning streak and bringing a memorable season to a close.
And, the sense of finality Saturday was made that much greater knowing the game was the final outing for Walhalla head coach Hal Dunlap, whose upcoming retirement was announced last week after a lengthy run as the Razorbacks’ coach that dates to 1999.
“Tonight, it was all about Walhalla and working hard to get a win,” he said following the loss. “Right now, I haven’t really thought about it. Right now, I’m not really emotional, and I’m composed. It’ll set in later, but right now, I just hate it for the guys, because I really thought we were good enough to win.”
Walhalla (20-8) had its work cut out for it against a Southside team that came in riding a 14-game winning streak and hasn’t lost to fellow Palmetto State team all season.
Still, the Razorbacks weren’t without their chances against the Tigers (22-2), even if the long ball wasn’t fully cooperating inside the downtown Greenville venue.
After Southside ran out to a 16-10 lead at the end of the first quarter, Walhalla got a basket from Andrew Cox and a fair of free throws from Zach Schulenburg on consecutive possessions to cut the Tigers’ lead to 22-21 with 3:52 left in the opening half.
However, Southside closed the quarter on a 9-0 run, which included a pair of free throws from Tobias Canada, who was fouled on a desperation three-point attempt with 2.3 seconds until halftime.
“We had open looks in the first half, and I thought we had a chance to be in good shape,” Dunlap said. “We shot just 23 percent in the first half, and it kind of got away from us right there at the end of the half, but we were still in pretty good shape.”
All-state forward John Thorsland — who finished with a game-high 18 points — hit a three out of the gate in the third quarter to cut the deficit to 31-24, but that was as close as Walhalla got until there was just 1:59 to play, when the senior drained another long-range basket to make it 46-39.
Even after an alley-oop from Tuzion Brock to 6-10 center Jamal Burke gave Southside a 50-39 lead and brought the house down, Walhalla still wasn’t done in the game’s waning moments. After Tyler Jankowy sank a pair of free throws and Ben Wolff hit a three-pointer, Walhalla trailed by just six at 50-44 with 36.4 seconds to play.
After another score by Burke, Walhalla was called for a technical foul on its next trip down the floor with 15.2 seconds to play, however, sealing its fate against the Tigers for all intents and purposes.
“We kind of got back with a little run at the end with the ball and a chance to cut the lead,” Dunlap said. “I thought we were right in it, and while this team has been great, they’ve been a little temperamental. They like to be affected by circumstances more than I’d like for them to be. It was just tough, and we just didn’t quite get it done, but I thought we had a chance all night long.”
The loss ended a season that will long be remembered in Walhalla, as the Razorbacks enjoyed a perfect run through Western 3A play on the way to the region crown — the sixth in school history, and the first in more than a decade.
Add in the fact four of the Razorbacks’ starters — Cox, Jankowy, Thorsland and Wolff — are seniors, and it was hard for the squad coming off the floor Saturday afternoon.
“It was just a tough last game,” Thorsland said. “We didn’t really shoot it well, and you often lose when that happens. It was really just sad with it being the last game for our seniors, and coach Dunlap’s last game, too.
“He’s been a great coach. The three years I’ve had him, he’s been a great role model and leader, and he’s taught me so much, and not just about basketball, but life, too. I really appreciate him, and my teammates, too.”
And while the gravity of the moment didn’t necessarily hit him in the immediate aftermath of the loss, Dunlap said it’ll most definitely be difficult saying goodbye after a lengthy coaching career that dates back to when he took the head job at Tamassee-Salem in 1984.
“Nobody thought we’d be here, but we were,” he said. “I thought we had a chance to win it, and we didn’t, so that’s frustrating. But, no regrets. I love the school, the kids, the town, and I’ve had a really good time. My wife has been fantastic in allowing me to do what I love to do. She’s been the best to allow me to do this and be out every night for 40 years during the season, and that’s hard. I’m going to try to be a little better husband and grandfather now.
“I also want to really thank our students,” he added. “They were great tonight, and what a great crowd we had. Their support has been fantastic, and I really appreciate it.”
Following its win, Southside will look to defend its state title next Saturday against Ridgeland-Hardeeville in Columbia.
Southside 54, Walhalla 46
WHS 10 11 8 17 — 46
SHS 16 15 13 10 — 54
Walhalla (48) — Thorsland 18, Jankowy 10, Wolff 8, Cox 6, Loggins 2, Schulenburg 2
Southside (54) — Burke 18, Calhoun 11, Canada 11, Brock 10, Jackson 2, Shell 2
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