Disagreement is a common theme among coaches in the same league, particularly when it comes to selecting players for all-region honors.
Dillon’s Khamele Manning and Loris standout Iklea Green spent much of the season neck-and-neck in the race for Region VI-3A Player of the Year. Both navigating their teams to 9-1 records in league play, it was just as tough to separate the two when coaches sat down to vote on the matter Thursday morning — a little more than 36 hours before their teams would meet for a league title.
Opinion by most would be that one of them would play a role in deciding things, ending the discussion once and for all as to which of them was the league’s best. Instead, a heralded freshman would steal the show.
A dominant first half by Kyia Bell helped Dillon build a 27-point halftime lead, one that inevitably proved too much for Loris in a 65-44 Wildcats win.
By virtue of its victory, Dillon earned the Region VI-3A title and a No. 1 seed in the upcoming state playoffs.
“I told my seniors, it is hard replacing someone like (former Dillon girls basketball coach Shawn Johnson),” Dillon girls basketball coach James McMillian. “So I said, ‘Look, let’s take this one step at a time. Let’s get a region championship.’
“They worked hard, and I think they did a good job.”
Before most had settled into their seats, the Wildcats had already asserted their dominance. Bell was the catalyst of such a fast start, scoring nine points in the opening quarter.
“We really had something to prove tonight. Myself, I didn’t want to let my team down, I didn’t want to let my seniors down,” she said. “I’m just happy to be able to do my part and accomplish this.”
The Dillon freshman would continue to give Loris fits in the second, with Manning joining the fray as well to lead their squad to a 26-point quarter. The duo went to the break with 27 points to their credit — 10 more than the Lions combined to earn as a team.
(Kyia) Bell and (Khamele) Manning are special players for them. In the beginning, we just didn’t get back on defense like we should have, and they made us pay for it. We dug a hole too big for ourselves.
Loris girls basketball coach Douglas Gause
A frustrating half of basketball boiled over toward the end of the opening 16 minutes, with Green and Manning getting involved in a war of words. Eventually, the Loris standout would be called for a technical foul.
Her exasperation was a microcosm of how things fared for the Lions early on, but the squad did not mail it in despite their longs odds of potentially pulling off a miraculous win.
“Bell and Manning are special players for them,” said Loris girls basketball coach Douglas Gause. “In the beginning, we just didn’t get back on defense like we should have, and they made us pay for it. We dug a hole too big for ourselves.”
Bell finished with 23 points, in addition to bringing down seven rebounds. Two other Wildcats finished in double figures, including Manning with 12 along with 10 points courtesy of Amani Harley.
Green led Loris with 22 points. The only player on her squad to score in double figures, she knocked down four 3-pointers in the game.
Though not the finish he envisioned, Gause said he is pleased with the Lions’ effort, and is looking forward to their upcoming playoff run.
“Overall, I’m pleased with my team’s performance. All I ask of them is to go out and play and leave everything on the floor, and that’s what they did,” said Loris girls basketball coach Douglas Gause. “We exceeded expectations this year. Finishing last a season ago and coming in second this one, that’s a big accomplishment. They should feel proud of that.
“But I also told them, we are about to step into a new season. One more loss and this is over.”
Loris will open the playoffs at home Tuesday night against Timberland, the No. 3 squad out of Region VI-3A. As for Dillon, it will host Hanahan in the first round.