SUMTER, S.C. - If Augusta Christian head coach John Harris was pressed to come up with a motto to describe this year's squad, it might be, "You've just got to believe."
Entering the SCISA Class AAA state tournament as the upper fourth seed, the Lions defeated Wilson Hall, upset top seed Hammond and No. 2 Northwood before completing their improbable run to a state championship with a 59-53 victory over defending state champion Cardinal Newman on Saturday at the Sumter Civic Center.
"We believed," Harris said. "We believed no matter what seed that we landed into, we had to battle and we were able to make that run. We stayed together as a unit, all in, one game at a time. We believed from the beginning of the year. ... That was one of our team goals, to be the last one standing. It took perseverance, hard work - we've been working since May - and now we're reaping some of the fruits of our labor."
Junior guard Zach London came off the bench and provided a spark for the Lions, scoring 10 of his team-high 15 points in the first half as Augusta Christian (22-7) led 28-19 at the break. London hit two 3s in the opening quarter and added another in the third quarter after the Cardinals had pulled within five.
By the end of the quarter, the lead was back at nine, 41-32.
"Zach played extremely well," Harris said. "He shot the ball well in the first half, and he just did a good job."
The fourth quarter provided little drama as the Lions led by as many as 12. The Cardinals pulled within seven on three occasions before cutting the final deficit to six.
Jordan Dingle added 12 for Augusta Christian.
Cardinal Newman's Charles Smith had a game-high 19 points. Sam Lake had 15 points on five 3s for the Cardinals (19-10).