Darren Gore lost the most influential basketball player to come through Christian Academy of Myrtle Beach after last season.
The Saints are one of the favorites to win the SCISA Class A state championship again just the same.
“This is probably the best team we’ve ever had,” Gore said. “We’re deep. We have six seniors who had a lot of experience.
“We’re able to push tempo. What we try to do is wear some of these teams down. That’s the formula we’ve used. … In years past, we couldn’t run up and down the court. We’d run a half-court, Princeton-style and slow the game down.”
Not so much now.
Christian Academy, averaging just shy of 61 points per game, will play Faith Christian on Tuesday in North Charleston for the Region III title. Even if the Saints lose, they will still be one of the top seeds for the Class A playoffs, which begin Saturday. They’ve done that without Kendall Henry – the two-time region player of the year who played a major role in two of the team’s four state titles – who is now at NCAA Division II Anderson. With him gone, the Saints’ continued success is another indication of how quickly this program has grown from nothing to one of South Carolina’s best.
Players like Bernard Jones have certainly helped.
The sophomore is in his second season with the team after transferring from Mullins, and he is putting up more than 15 points a game even though he’s a bigger focal point to opposing defenses. In a lopsided win over Coastal Christian on Saturday, Jones had 29 points, 10 rebounds and six steals in less than three quarters.
“He said I needed to be more of an offensive player,” said Jones, who is on pace to top the 1,000-point mark for his career midway through his junior season.
Said Gore: “People haven’t seen the full package. He could score 30 just about any night. Last year, we had Kendall, and he fed the ball to him. If we need him to play defense, he’ll go out and do that.”
Between his games with his school and AAU ball, Jones is on a path to draw college interest even Henry never quite garnered. But the Saints are no one-man team. Austin Guyton (14.8 ppg, 7.3 rpg) and Garrett Richards (8.8 ppg, 5.5 rpg) and several others have kept Christian Academy every bit the state title contender.
Next year, the Saints will move up to Class AA. But not before they get a shot to go after a fifth state championship.
“I’m not surprised. We had most of our team back,” Jones said. “The rest of the team is back. If we’re able to do it again, it means we have a good coach and it wasn’t just the players last year.”
SCHSL hoops playoffs logistics
Still adapting to inclement weather that postponed regular-season games last week and in January, South Carolina High School League teams are getting ready for a jammed Thursday night.
After regular-season finales and even some play-in games to start the week, as many as 14 of the 24 area boys and girls teams will qualify for the playoffs. The SCHSL announced last Friday that all classes for both would start the postseason on the same day.
For Myrtle Beach, that likely means a doubleheader. The Seahawk boys and girls will both open the postseason at home. As of Monday, the plan was to start both games at normal times. However, that could adjust depending on the first-round opponents and how far they have to travel.
“Based on the schools we end up playing, we’re going to try to keep it [at 6 p.m. for girls and 7:30 for boys],” Myrtle Beach athletic director John Cahill said. “If a school has a different request, we don’t know exactly who that will be yet.”
Typically, all first-round playoff games are held to the 7 p.m. start time unless the traveling team requests a change. That should be the case for Thursday’s games, although several potential second-round contests – which are all scheduled to take place on Saturday – are likely to be moved up to earlier in the day.
The third-round matchups for girls and Class AAAA boys will be played on Feb. 25. Class AAA, AA and A boys third-round games will take place on Feb. 26. The state semifinal games for all classes will take place in Florence (Lower State) and Greenville (Upper State) on March 1, with all four championship games be played March 8 in Columbia.
Tickets for each class for the first three rounds are $6 per person, and they increase to $10 for the semifinals and finals.
State wrestling finals
Like basketball, the wrestling playoffs were altered considerably by recent weather.
Socastee, which qualified for the Class AAA state finals by defeating St. James in the Lower State finals, will face Eastside at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at River Bluff High School in Lexington. Braves coach Jeff Gibbins said the team will leave at approximately 1 p.m. Wednesday.
The team will stop midway through the drive to get in a short warm-up before completing the drive to Lexington.
Tickets for Wednesday’s finals are $10 per person.
All-Region VII-AAA girls honors
Myrtle Beach guard Keocia Walker was named the Region VII-AAA Player of the Year, which was announced Monday.
Walker helped the Seahawks to the region title and home-court advantage for the first three rounds of the playoffs. Also honored were North Myrtle Beach freshman Aquera Johnson (Newcomer of the Year) and Myrtle Beach’s Jennifer Dennison, who was named the region’s Coach of the Year.
Marci Chestnut (North Myrtle Beach), Kira Bell (Socastee), Bethany Goodrich (St. James) and Bryanna Goodson (Wilson) joined Walker on the All-Region VII-AAA first team.
For the complete All-Region VII-AAA honors, visit the Prep Talk blog at MyrtleBeachOnline.com.
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