MYRTLE BEACH — With first place in Region VII-AAA on the line, North Myrtle Beach and Socastee knew defense would play a big role in Tuesday night’s matchup.
It was a back-and-forth battle for most of the game, but the Chiefs executed down the stretch en route to a 36-31 win over the Braves – and sole possession of first place in the region.
“Socastee came out and played a great game defensively, which wasn’t a surprise at all,” North Myrtle Beach coach Jude Hunt said. “I felt like we probably had a few turnovers we shouldn’t of had and that kind of put us in a situation we shouldn’t have been in. They’re a good team, but we came in and played well and we did what we had to do to win.
“The ‘Ws’ don’t look ugly; they always look good. It’s a good thing that we won and I’m satisfied.”
However, the Braves were not going down without a fight. Socastee continued its solid defensive season by holding an opponent under 40 points for the 14th time this season.
“I think we played solid defense,” Ford said. “I can’t complain about the effort or the hustle. We had a few mental lapses and we did not get the scoring that we’ve been getting and not being in the one-and-one in the fourth quarter really hurt us in the last two minutes of the game. We felt like it was an important game and we knew what we had to do to win the game. We just have to keep moving forward.”
Said Hunt: “They came out in a very good zone defense, and they were very tight. Every time we tried to penetrate or pass the ball in they made sure they doubled down on us to force a turnover or have us make a mistake. We just weren’t getting our shots and we turned the ball over too much.”
The Chiefs managed to frequently get to the charity stripe, something Ford believes doomed her team.
“I attribute [the loss] to the free-throw line,” she said. “They shot 19 free throws and we shot six. That says a whole lot and I’ll just leave it at that.”
Taylor Allman provided a game-high 15 points with six steals and four rebounds for the Chiefs. Ja’Quella Livingston gathered a game-high 12 rebounds to go along with six points and four steals.
“I thought Livingston did a great job on the boards,” Hunt said. “We knew we had to limit their shots by securing our defensive rebounds and I think we did a good job at that. Taylor Allman is always a really good emotional leader. She had to step in and play point guard because of some foul trouble and I thought she did great.”
Socastee coach Ginger Ford alluded that Allman’s will to win is what propelled North Myrtle Beach.
“I think Allman’s desire, if her team stalled or faltered, was a big factor in the game and I think it pushed them through,” She said.
Senior Blake Smith had a team-high 13 points, and Kira Bell had eight points and six rebounds for Socastee. Meanwhile, senior Kirstin Zanardo struggled to knock down her shots, going 2-for-15 from the field for only five points.
The Braves will try to try to get back on track when they take on Georgetown Friday night at 6 p.m.
“We’ll be fine,” Ford said. “They know it’s still possible to win the region. We need to come back and take it one game at a time and take care of business. We’ll get back to work at practice and be ready.”
With North Myrtle Beach sweeping the first half of the region slate, Hunt believes his team will need a boost in order to remain dominant.
“It says a lot. It says that other teams are going to be gunning for us,” Hunt said. “We left a taste in everyone else’s mouth because we’ve played some close games. We’re counting on people to keep gunning for us, and we have to do better than we’ve been doing so we can be prepared for that.”
• NORTH MYRTLE BEACH (36) – Ja’Quella Livingston 6, Marci Chestnut 4, Sarah McCloskey 2, Taylor Allman 15, India Farmer 8, Laquiesha Stanley 1.
• SOCASTEE (31) – Blake Smith 13, Kirstin Zanardo 5, Kira Bell 8, Maegen Harrelson 4, Sydney Wortham 1.
• 3-point goals: North Myrtle Beach 1 (Allman); Socastee 2 (Smith, Zanardo). Team fouls: North Myrtle Beach 9, Socastee 19. Fouled out: Madison Lowe (Socastee). Technical fouls: None.
• Records: North Myrtle Beach (17-2, 5-0 Region VII-AAA), Socastee (12-7, 3-2 Region VII-AAA).