All night long, every time the basketball was headed toward Bluffton’s Eric Eastham, the mostly empty Colleton County gym echoed with the sound of coach Matthew Mullins screaming, “Shooter!” And most of the time, the Cougars found him, but when they didn’t, Eastham made them pay.
The senior sharpshooter splashed two key 3-pointers during a back-and-forth fourth quarter, then gave the Bobcats the lead for good with another from long range in overtime as Bluffton escaped with a 69-61 win.
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Although it was Eastham who came up big from 3-point range down the stretch, a number of other Bobcats stepped up in large part because of the defensive work the Cougars did limiting his looks. Tre Brown quietly put up 17, and Nick Yanez moved into the starting lineup at point guard and provided a spark with 14 points. Eastham finished with 12 points, and DJ Aiken took advantage of a size edge in the paint to finish with 10 points and 12 boards for his first double-double.
The Bobcats were in command early, outscoring the Cougars 11-4 in a sloppy first quarter before both teams heated up and pushed the pace. Colleton used a quick 6-0 burst to get back in it, and freshman Mykeem Gant buried a pair of threes to complete the comeback, the second tying it at 21.
Colleton’s Deshaun Blocker drove the baseline to tie it at 25 just before halftime, but Brown ran in a floater at the other end to put the Bobcats up two at the break.
It was more of the same in the third quarter with the lead pinballing until Silas Holmes splashed a three to give the Cougars a 44-43 lead heading to the fourth. Colleton stretched the lead as large as four early in the period, but Aiken scored in the paint and Eastham got free at the top of the key for a 3-pointer to put Bluffton back on top.
There were four more lead changes before Holmes scored in transition to tie it at 53, Bluffton’s Jaylin Linder scored on a breakaway to put the Bobcats up two, and Blocker drove the baseline to knot it at 55. Neither team could break the deadlock before the end of regulation, as Eastham’s long bomb clanked off the rim at the buzzer.
The back-and-forth battle continued early in overtime, but Eastham got loose again on the left wing to bang in a 3-pointer with 2:51 left, and the Bobcats closed it out at the line.
Holmes matched Brown for the game-high with 17 points, Blocker added 13, and Gant had 11 for the Cougars.
Colleton County (0-5, 0-2) is scheduled to travel to James Island on Tuesday.
Bluffton (2-2, 1-2) is slated to play at James Island on Friday.