It was senior night for the Queens Royals, and the five seniors playing their final regular season home game went out in style, using a 19-6 run in the second half to break open a close game and defeat North Greenville 76-63 at the Grady Cole Center.
The five seniors – Antonio Stabler, Nate Blackburn, Sam Johnson, Brandon Nichols and his brother Maurice Nichols – all started and helped the Royals (13-11, 10-8 Conference Carolinas) jump out to a 15-6 lead early.
North Greenville (10-14, 5-13) chipped away at the lead, cutting it to one late in the half, but Queens would lead 29-26 at the break. Stabler, Blackburn and Brandon Nichols scored 26 of the Royals’ 29 in the opening half.
The lead was just 37-35 at the 16:32 mark when Queens took over. Freshman Tre McLean scored nine points in a five-minute stretch that saw the Royals push their lead from just two to 15, closing the 19-6 run with a 3-point play at the 11:13 mark.
“Tre wasn’t real good early and we needed someone who wasn’t a senior to give us a spark off the bench,” Queens head coach Wes Long said. “I told Tre it didn’t matter if he missed shots, but get into the paint and that’s exactly what he was able to do.”
The Royals were never threatened after that, allowing their seniors to come out one at a time in the final minute. It was also likely the last game at the Grady Cole Center, as Queens will move back on campus next season.
“We’ve gone 16-4 here over the past two seasons,” Long said. “I’m proud of these guys; they could’ve used the fact that we had to go off-campus as an excuse, but they never did that. They’ve worked hard every day no matter where we’ve had to practice and that says a lot.”
Stabler led Queens with 23 points and nine rebounds, while Brandon Nichols had 13 points and McLean had a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds. North Greenville had two players in double figures, as Tyshawn Patterson led the Crusaders with 22 and Keith Johnson added 20.