Prep notebook | Brutal early schedule paying off for Myrtle Beach boys basketball

For The Sun NewsFebruary 18, 2013 

Craig Martin stuck to his guns.

His Myrtle Beach boys basketball team would play some of the best teams this side of South Carolina had to offer during the non-region schedule. Add in short trips to the Beach Ball Classic and Carolina Forest’s Panther Classic tournaments, and the first half of the season was anything but easy.

Martin believed it would pay off when it meant the most – the state playoffs.

The Seahawks enter tonight’s third-round playoff game against Darlington with that experience having dictated a season.

“I’m never going to do myself any favors by trying to pad wins,” Martin said. “I really feel like we’re going out and playing against the best guys. Win or lose, you want to test yourself.”

Myrtle Beach (15-11) was anything but perfect during the regular season. The team lost one game each to the bottom four teams in the region.

However, against North Myrtle Beach – which won Region VII-AAA – the Seahawks swept both meetings. Myrtle Beach also won five games against Class AAAA teams earlier in the year.

Combined with Friday’s second-round playoff victory at Orangeburg-Wilkinson, and Martin’s squad won four times against various region champions.

That last one helped the players further understand the scheduling mentality.

“The kids are really buying into what we’re teaching, what we’re preaching,” Martin said. “We’re using the same terminology. It’s starting to become more of a program. The kids understand. They know everything. They know we’re going to play the toughest teams.”

The approach isn’t anything new. Martin said one national site ranked Myrtle Beach’s schedule as the third-toughest this season in Class AAA after also being tops in the class a season ago. In between, the Seahawks played an ultra-competitive summer scrimmage schedule against a number of Class AAAA squads.

A victory over Darlington would add further credence to Myrtle Beach’s scheduling tactics.

The Falcons (18-6) will come in with nine seniors, three wins against region champions (including Friday’s against Strom Thurmond) and four victories against Class AAAA opponents.

With everything the Seahawks have already faced this season, though, this type of opponent is a bit of the norm.

“The game’s slowing down for a lot of them,” Martin said. “We’ve been in those tough situations before. They’re not intimidated by them. You don’t get in those spots by [playing] a soft schedule.”

Carvers Bay-Johnsonville, Round 3

Region realignment wasn’t going to stop Carvers Bay’s long-running basketball rivalry with Johnsonville.

Coaches Jeff Mezzatesta and Harris Avant kept the tradition going, scheduling a home-and-home for the regular season. Both teams knew by the time they split those meetings that a third matchup was a strong possibility.

Sure enough, both advanced with relative ease through their first two playoff games. On Tuesday, Round 3 takes place at Carvers Bay with a trip to the Class A Lower State finals on the line.

Johnsonville was ranked No. 1 in the state rankings, which were released following the end of the regular season. The Flashes won their final 10 regular-season games (all in region play). Not surprisingly, Carvers Bay was the last team to knock off Johnsonville, back on Jan. 4.

The Bears, ranked No. 8 in the most recent rankings, would love to do so again. History says that’s a strong possibility.

The home team has won each of the six meetings between the two teams.

This season, Johnsonville won 65-61 on Dec. 14 before the Bears took the second game 61-59 on Jan. 4. The teams also split their matchups in 2011-2012 – when they were both in Region VIII-A – and in 2010-2011. The Bears swept the season series in 2009-2010, when current Carvers Bay senior and All-State selection Da’Shaun Aiken was a freshman.

This year, Aiken had 15 points in the first game, although he was just four-of-23 from the field. He did, however, have six steals.

The second time around, Aiken was held out of the game to continue to rest an injury. The team did the same thing in advance of the Class A playoffs, and it showed in the first two rounds.

Aiken had 18 points and nine rebounds in a playoff-opening victory over Latta before dropping 28 points – half his team’s overall scoring total – against Military Magnet on Friday.

Improved playoff success

This time a year ago, Grand Strand teams were out of the playoffs. All of them.

No area team advanced past the second round of its respective class’ postseason, and as a whole, the 13 schools’ combined playoff record between boys and girls squads was 5-13.

It’s clear this season that a few teams’ success was going to change that figure quite a bit.

Entering Monday’s third round of the 2013 basketball playoffs, area teams had already won 11 games (combined with 10 losses). More teams won opening-round games, and five – the Myrtle Beach and Carvers Bay boys and North Myrtle Beach, Socastee and Carvers Bay girls – won their first two games and advanced to the state quarterfinals.

The biggest jump was in Class AAA girls, where two wins each by North Myrtle and Socastee and another by Myrtle Beach gave area teams from that class five overall victories through the first two rounds. Last year, such teams won only two combined playoff games.

Contact IAN GUERIN at ian@ianguerin.com.

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