CONWAY — It took a short drive and an extra region game, but the Myrtle Beach boys made sure they wouldn’t have to leave home for a while — at least not for playoff basketball.
Despite a game-high 21 points for North Myrtle Beach’s Matt Lindsey, the Seahawks topped the Chiefs 51-46 at Conway High School to clinch the Region VII-AAA basketball title, and three home AAA state playoff games.
“[The win] is huge because we haven’t lost at home in the region,” senior Brooks Swanson said. “That’s big for us. I think our crowd and the home-court advantage in the playoffs will help us out. They support us a lot.”
The neutral-site region game, which was surrounded on both sides by raucous fans from each school, was a rematch of a game from last Saturday. The Chiefs took that game 55-52, but this time it came down to the Seahawks’ senior leadership, coach Craig Martin said.
“The [seniors] have played together, they work well together, they trust one another,” he said. “They do all the things that senior-laden teams do. I’m kind of just sitting there watching them play as opposed to doing a whole lot of coaching."”
That leadership was never more evident than in the early minutes Tuesday night. North Myrtle Beach came out firing, storming out to a 9-2 lead; then came the Swanson barrage.
The senior knocked down two quick 3-pointers to erase the deficit, then knocked down two more later in the half on his way to a team-high 16 points.
“I realized somebody had to do something, and it sparked a little team intensity,” he said.
Swanson was joined by another of Myrtle Beach’s nine seniors, Drew Allan, who calmly went to the line, over and over again. Allan went a perfect 8-for-8 from the free-throw line in the game, finishing with 12 points. As a team Myrtle Beach went 19-for-24 on free throws; North Myrtle Beach got to the line just seven times, making four.
“We still do a lot of conditioning, a lot of running, and every time we’re exhausted and we’re sprinting, we always have to shoot free throws. If we don’t make them we’ll continue to run,” Martin said. “That’s one thing that we’ve really focused on this year and it’s starting to pay off.”
A hot-shooting second quarter left Myrtle Beach with a 28-18 lead at halftime. Much like in the first quarter, though, the Chiefs came out firing.
Matt Lindsey scored eight of his 21 points in the third — his brother, Josh, was the Chiefs’ second-leading scorer, with 11 — and the Chiefs cut the deficit to 38-33 heading into the fourth quarter.
“We battled back – we knew 10 points didn’t mean anything – these two teams could play 100 times and it would be 50-50,” North Myrtle Beach coach Frank Moorhead said. “They’re tough to guard, they’ve got five guys who can shoot it out there, plus they’ve got guys who can penetrate, so there are just decisions you have to make as a team and a coach.”
A Colby Gore layup with just over a minute left cut the score to 45-43, but the Chiefs were unable to get any closer. Costly turnovers, including one that turned into an Anthony McNeil layup, put the game out of reach.
The result and atmosphere was one that both coaches said would better their teams going into the playoffs. Martin also noted that matching up with anyone as talented as Matt Lindsey for a third time this year would better his team going forward against some of the best in the state.
“That kid is one of top players in the state. … he’s just a very tough kid to guard,” Martin said. “We can go back to that when we’re going into a game and say ‘hey, you’ve played against a kid like this before. This is how we’re going to guard him.’ It really prepares us for the playoffs, and that’s kind of what North Myrtle Beach does. I think hopefully we’ve helped them get better, and I know they’ve helped us get better, and it’d be nice to see each other in the Lower States.”
• NORTH MYRTLE BEACH (46) – Josh Lindsey 11, Matt Lindsey 21, Matthew Stanaland 4, Drew Dunn 3, Cameron Gore 4, Colby Gore 3
• MYRTLE BEACH (51) – Solomon Cooper 10 Brooks Swanson 16, Drew Allan 12, William Gray 3, Anthony McNeil 8, Coleman Martini 2
• 3-point goals: North Myrtle Beach 8 (J. Lindsey 3, M. Lindsey 4, Dunn 1), Myrtle Beach 4 (Swanson 4). Team fouls: North Myrtle Beach 16, Myrtle Beach 12. Fouled out: None. Technical fouls: None.
• Records: North Myrtle Beach 20-5, Myrtle Beach 19-6
Contact JEFF NOWAK at 444-1767.