MYRTLE BEACH -- The Myrtle Beach Seahawks were within three points of Butler (N.C.), the No. 10 team in the country according to ESPN, with less than a minute to play Friday night.
But they were unable to pull off the upset. Butler held on for a 54-45 win in the opening round of the Crescent Bank Holiday Invitational girls high school basketball tournament at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center.
A layin by Tanisha Brown off a Katie Hemingway steal with a minute to play cut the Butler deficit to three points, and Myrtle Beach got another steal seconds later but was unable to convert.The Bulldogs went 6-for-6 from the foul line in the final 38 seconds to seal the victory.
“We have to do the little things, and we didn’t finish the shots and free throws, and they finished free throws and finished plays at the end of the game,” said Myrtle Beach sophomore guard Khadijah Sessions, who had a team-high 19 points. “We lost by [nine] and we were right there in the game. That’s what we have to practice is free throws and finishing games against good teams. But that was good competition and I’m glad we got to play them.”
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The loss is the first of the year for Myrtle Beach (9-1), which struggled with Butler’s length and height, particularly the 6-foot-3 Clair Watkins inside and 6-2 Tennessee commitment Cierra Burdick both inside and out.
Burdick had 19 points and 13 rebounds, and Watkins had 20 points and eight rebounds. Sessions’ 19 points came on 5-of-22 shooting to go along with five rebounds and five assists.“I thought we could have played a little bit better but we’re happy to win,” said Butler coach Stephanie Butler, whose team played Thursday night in Charlotte. “Our post players I thought were pretty productive, though we missed a lot of shots we should have made. We didn’t get much productivity out of our guards.”
Myrtle Beach wasn’t intimidated at the outset by Butler (6-1), also ranked 22nd by USA Today, and scored the game’s first seven points on three baskets by junior guard Shatia Cole, including a pair on fast-break feeds from Sessions and Tanisha Brown, and a free throw by Sessions.
Butler went scoreless for the first 3:30 of the game, missing its first nine shots before 6-foot-3 senior Clair Watkins scored inside on a putback. It began a 7-0 run that allowed the Bulldogs to tie the game.
“It was all the X factors, including a bigger court,” Butler said. “We play in smaller gyms. I think we got past that a little bit early on and started to settle down a little bit.”Butler imposed its will late in the first half, after the Seahawks pulled within two points at 21-19 following an inside bucket by Brown from Sessions with 2:40 remaining. The Bulldogs scored the final seven points of the half on baskets by Watkins, Burdick and Quay Barrino.
The lead reached 11 points after Butler scored the opening bucket of the second half, but Myrtle Beach wouldn’t go away. The Seahawks pulled within four points with 6:33 to play following a Sessions 3-pointer and two Sessions free throws, and was still within four with 3:20 remaining following a pair of Sessions free throws before cutting the lead to three with a minute to play.“We got a scouting report on them, and they looked like a WNBA team on paper,” Sessions said. “But on the court we just had to go out there and play our game. They’re a pretty good team, but I think we did a good job playing the No.  team in the nation.”