Carolina Forest boys basketball has mystery opponent for playoff run

For The Sun NewsFebruary 19, 2014 

  • SCHSL BASKETBALL PLAYOFFS FIRST-ROUND GAMES

    All games at 7 p.m. unless noted

    Girls

    Class AAA

    • Hanahan at No. 1 Myrtle Beach, 6 p.m.

    • No. 3 North Myrtle Beach at No. 2 Hilton Head

    • No. 4 Socastee at No. 1 Orangeburg-Wilkinson

    Class AA

    • No. 4 Waccamaw at No. 1 Kingstree

    Class A

    • No. 3 Johnsonville at No. 2 Carvers Bay

    Boys

    Class AAAA

    • No. 3 Carolina Forest at No. 2 North Augusta/Dutch Fork

    Class AAA

    • No. 4 Berkeley at No. 1 Myrtle Beach, 7:30 p.m.

    • No. 3 James Island at No. 2 North Myrtle Beach

    • No. 3 Socastee at No. 2 Hanahan

    Class AA

    • No. 4 Waccamaw at No. 1 Lake Marion

    Class A

    • No. 4 Carvers Bay at No. 1 Johnsonville

Brian Brunson spent a good chunk of Wednesday getting ready for his team’s trip to the playoffs.

Carolina Forest, courtesy of a third-place finish in Region VI-AAAA, has known since Monday it was postseason-bound. As to where he was going, that was a different story.

Due to ice-related delays that affected much of the state, the Region V standings had not been finalized. The Panthers’ list of opponents had been narrowed down to Dutch Fork and North Augusta. Region V had not been finalized as of press time, meaning Carolina Forest was going to have less than 24 hours to lock in preparation.

“I’m putting together two travel plans and two game plans,” Brunson said earlier Wednesday. “It’s a bad dream. There are a lot of people who are in the same boat.”

North Augusta played and lost to Dutch Fork on Tuesday night, and then had the regular-season finale against Aiken on Wednesday. Dutch Fork was off on Wednesday, and like Carolina Forest and a number of others, they were awaiting the North Augusta-Aiken results.

Brunson said that North Augusta’s path to the playoffs may have been the most difficult, as it was playing three games in three days.

Regardless of opponent, Thursday night will be a chance at some redemption and a chance to make history for Carolina Forest. The Panthers have yet to win a playoff game since moving up to Class AAAA in 2008-2009. The team lost in the first round between 2009-2012, and it failed to qualify last year.

“We’ve just seemed to run into a buzzsaw in the first round,” Brunson said. “You always want to win that first one. But I don’t look at it like a downer. There are a lot of teams who don’t make it to that first round.”

Two of those first-round exits were at the hands of lower-seeded teams. Brunson is selling that to his No. 3 seeded team already.

“You just never know. High school ball is fickle,” he said. “It’s kind of like the Russell Wilson statement: Why not us? Who says we can’t be that team?”

Carvers Bay aims to disrupt Class A bracket

A year ago this time, Jeff Mezzatesta’s Carvers Bay boys were about to start a run that took the Bears all the way to the Lower State final.

This season, Mezzatesta’s team might need the game of the year to remain alive after the first round. Carvers Bay will head to Johnsonville and face a team that has spent much of the year ranked among the top 10 teams in the state.

The Flashes haven’t lost since a New Year’s Eve game against Hartsville, and that run includes a 74-48 win over Carvers Bay.

“We’re rivals. We know each other,” Mezzatesta said. “It’s a contest any time we play each other. But they’re a really, really good team. They have a lot of experience. … It’s going to be a tough game, and that’s always a tough place to play.”

The Bears did beat Johnsonville 50-44 on Dec. 10. They also won third round of the playoffs last season. However, that was when Class A Player of the Year Da’Shaun Aiken was still in uniform.

This season, Carvers Bay is starting two seniors – Darius Williams and Chris Carter – a junior in Eaddy Moore, sophomore D.J. Goss and eighth grader Tyrek Reed.

Home-court advantage by the numbers

Coaches may all say something different about what home-court advantage truly means.

But they will all certainly take it.

The Myrtle Beach boys and girls, North Myrtle Beach boys and Carvers Bay girls will each start Thursday’s playoffs at home. In the case of both Myrtle Beach teams, they own home-court advantage throughout the first three rounds.

In 2013, the advantage for home teams in the first round was significant. Boys and girls teams from the four classes playing on their own floor were 102-26, a figure that equates to just shy of 80 percent.

All that said, there were obviously an important number of key upsets. After winning the Region VII-AAA title and a No. 1 seed, the North Myrtle Beach boys lost at home to Crestwood. On the other side of that, then-No. 4 Carvers Bay girls upended Latta, one of the top-ranked teams in the state.

Contact IAN GUERIN at ian@ianguerin.com.

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