AYNOR — Adversity comes in many forms. For the Waccamaw Warriors, it came in the form of a six-game slide followed by two play-in games, and tons of traveling in the process.
Quitting wasn’t an option for coach Mike Quinn and his Warriors, who pulled out a 64-49 victory over Loris at neutral site Aynor in a physical battle for the No. 4 seed and final playoff spot out of Region VIII-AA.
“My guys responded on not a lot of rest and it being a really long week, so I’m glad adrenaline took over,” Quinn said. “They believed they could do it, and I’m really excited about the opportunity to be in the postseason.”
It was not long ago that the postseason seemed an unreachable goal for the Warriors, who had lost six straight region games before beating Aynor on Friday and Loris on Saturday, two games made necessary by a three-way tie for fourth in the league.
“Well, I think that in all six games that we lost we never gave up, we just dug ourselves a hole that we couldn’t get out of,” Quinn said. “Teams in our region are really well-respected teams throughout the state, so when you dig yourself a hole against really good teams it’s very hard to get out of. In that six-game span, we just couldn’t respond.
“An eight-point lead becomes a 16-point lead, and then you’re fighting. It’s always give and take,” Quinn added. “That six-game slide, we never lost initiative, we never stopped believing, we never stopped practicing, and one thing about these guys, they won’t quit.”
Both teams started evenly matched Saturday and stayed that way for the majority of the game. With roughly 5 minutes left to play, the Warriors began to pull away.
“We knew Loris was going to give us 32 minutes of aggressive basketball play,” Quinn said. “We knew they were going to come right at us from the get-go so we said we were going to try to slow it down and maybe in the third or fourth quarter be able to match their aggressiveness.
“And the game plan worked,” Quinn continued. “They’re a real scrappy team, so we kind of conserved our energy with our fourth game in six days, so really the bottom line, our mindset was, let’s just get through the first half, and we knew they were going to come out right after us and they weren’t going to go away.”
Adonis Williams had 27 points and Noah Gulley added 11 for Waccamaw.
“Adonis, our point guard, had an incredible game,” Quinn said. “He ran the point like a true floor general. And Noah just hit the boards at the right time, took the ball strong, had a couple of three-point plays, and everybody stepped up, everybody knew their role, and we knew it was going to be 32 minutes of a really tough battle.”
Another thing that wouldn’t go away was the adversity the Warriors have faced in the past few weeks.
“They have really persevered,” Quinn said. “They have really shown the true character skills that you want your student-athletes to have. They have not complained, they have not made excuses, they haven’t been late. They have done everything we have asked them to do from what to wear, so I’m really proud of the Waccamaw high school student athletes and the athletic program.”
“We don’t look at the scoreboard,” Quinn continued. “We look to each other, and there’s not question I saw that the last two games because they easily could have packed it in and said, ‘you know what, we’re ready to hit the spring season,’ because it’s been such a long season.”
Next up for the Warriors is a road game on Wednesday at Lake Marion, the top seed out of Region VII. It won’t be easy, but neither was the rocky road traveled to get there.
“I just keep riding this momentum we’ve got now. Just keep doing what we’re doing now. Just taking care of the basketball, playing hard, believing in each other, and executing on both ends of the floor,” Quinn said. “If we just keep doing what we’re doing now, obviously we’re going to play some better competition, but at the end of the day, you’ve got to make plays. And we’re not going to be intimidated by who we play.”
• WACCAMAW (64) – Adonis Williams 27, Rob Ferraro 9, Matt Fisher 2, Jeffron Smalls 4, Jack Dwyer 4, Corey Pulley 1, Noah Gulley 11, Stephon Funnye 6.
• LORIS (49) – Shammond Juckion 1, Aaron Wheeler 10, Zack Faircloth 3, Deondra Wideman 15, Tyree Ford 18.
• 3-point goals: Waccamaw (Players); Loris 2 (Wheeler, Wideman). Team fouls: Waccamaw 12, Loris 19. Fouled out: Juckion, Faircloth. Technical fouls: None.