CAROLINA FOREST — The South Carolina Warriors returned from winter break with a big game on the slate.
They sure responded.
In a matchup of ABA top-five teams, the Warriors defeated the Richmond (Va.) Elite 111-106 on Saturday night in their first game in more than two weeks at the Carolina Forest Recreation Center.
Shaq Johnson had 31 points, Kellen Brand added 27 and Lashun Watson contributed 17 for the Warriors, ranked third in the ABA power rankings, in the victory over fifth-ranked Richmond.
Despite the layoff, Warriors coach John Kefalas said his team was up for the challenge.
“I think obviously they were a little rusty after 21/2 weeks off, but they played hard,” he said of his players. “They didn’t let up. When you play like that – even when the other team shot the 3 ball very well – [and] you stick in [you’re likely to win]. The bottom line is we had spurts where we weren’t hitting on offense, but – like I like to say, there’s not glory in defense, just victory.”
Former Hemingway High School standout Pat Lewis added a boost off the bench, providing 12 points while going 4-for-4 from the field and 2-for-2 from beyond the arc and the same at the free-throw stripe.
Lewis, who was a practice player last year, has joined the rotation this season and provided solid minutes off the bench.
“I made up my mind this year – and I like challenges. I just made my mind up that I’m putting him in my rotation and he’s worked hard,” Kefalas said. “He’s the inspiration on the team. I’m so proud of the young man; it’s incredible.”
Lewis’ workman-like rise into the rotation has allowed him to gain a special place on the roster, the coach said.
“He is an inspiration to all our players. He’s an inspiration to me as well because I love this kid,” Kefalas said. “He’s thankful that he’s on the floor. He makes me want to work harder.”
The Warriors (11-1) certainly worked hard to get the win Saturday against a scrappy Elite squad. Kefalas, too, said he had to put in plenty of work from the sidelines.
“They’re good shooters, they scrap, they rebound well. We put some different stuff in against them,” Kefalas said. “We played with two big men and did a high-low and played with smaller rotation. What worked is –like the last game before the break – at the end we went to a spread and opened the floor. We penetrated, they double-teamed and our big guys rolled to the basket and we got easy points.”
Former Coastal Carolina standout Jon Pack had nine points and 11 rebounds and newcomer Barry Jordan, who played at Arkansas under Nolan Richardson, provided seven points and six rebounds in his debut.
“I think he’s really going to help us,” Kefalas said of Jordan. “He just came in yesterday, played tonight and did real well.”
High school boys basketball
• Conway 54, (at) Myrtle Beach 43 | Jalen Hennigan sank four 3-pointers in a row to combine with Kahmil Cooper for 25 points as the Tigers cruised past the Seahawks. Conway freshman Bryan Edwards recorded 11 rebounds and four steals, while Malcolm Green pulled down 10 rebounds and Reggie Bonner secured seven.
• CONWAY (54) – Jalen Hennigan 12, Juquail Crosland 2, Christian Jeffords 8, Malcolm Green 4, Kahmil Cooper 13, Reggie Bonner 11, Bryan Edwards 2, Demar Williams 2.
• MYRTLE BEACH (43) – Tyshame Lewis 3, Nolin Butler 10, Mason Lewis 8, Wayne Vereen 2, Brooks Swanson 8, Tyrone Cooper 3, Soloman Cooper 6, Coleman Martini 3.
• 3-point goals: Conway 4 (Hennigan 4); Myrtle Beach (T. Lewis, Butler 2, M. Lewis 2, Swanson 2, Cooper). Team fouls: Conway 14, Myrtle Beach 22. Fouled out: G. Vaughn.
• Records: Myrtle Beach 7-7, Conway 7-5