By now, Mike Quinn has come to expect nothing less.
Over the past seven years, the Waccamaw boys basketball coach has seen several games between his team and rival St. James go down to the wire. So when Friday’s matchup followed a similar script, all he could do is buckle his seatbelt and — hopefully — enjoy the ride.
Up by as many as nine points in the second half, Quinn looked on helplessly as St. James chipped away at the lead, eventually tying the game at 40-all with under two minutes remaining. Warriors players would put their coach’s heart at ease, however, making a couple key defensive plays down the stretch, holding on for a 43-40 win.
“You know, for seven years every game seems like this,” the Waccamaw boys hoops coach said. “It’s great for the fans, great for everyone that came out. But guess what, it could have gone either way tonight. We had the lead the whole game, and they battled back.
“We’re very happy, but feeling very fortunate because we had to work for this one.”
A game more known for its missed shots and other miscues, the Warriors came out as the more aggressive team, utilizing a full-court press in an effort to not allow St. James shooters to become comfortable.
“We thought because of their outstanding outside shooting that one of our greatest tenants would be to put them in transition,” Quinn said. “It took them a bit out of their rhythm, so I’m happy about that.”
Still, the Sharks would get their share of shots off.
Particularly freshman guard Payton Lewis, whose ability to knock down shots from deep range allowed St. James to stay in contention early on.
Things would get hairy for Waccamaw in the fourth, though, as St. James cut the Warriors’ lead to a bucket following a 6-0 run to start the period. However, the advantage would extend back to six following two quick lay-ups, forcing the Sharks to call timeout.
St. James would not go down easily, turning stops on the defensive end to kickstart another 6-0 spurt, this one tying the game after Cameron Williams finished a lay-up.
It would prove to be a short-lived stalemate, as Waccamaw guard Ty’Shawn Richardson was fouled on his approach to the basket. He would split the free throws, giving the Warriors a 41-40 lead with under a minute left.
With an opportunity to potentially steal the game, attempts by St. James never grazed the iron. While one possession ended in an air ball, another proved more costly as Ronald Thompson’s lay-up provided the game its final margin.
“They almost took it from us, and we almost allowed them to take it from us,” Quinn said. “We got a little panicky, so much that we didn’t execute our offense as we should. But guess what? I have a sophomore point guard and a junior point guard; this will be a learning moment for both.”
Three Waccamaw players finished in double figures, led by Jawan Bryant’s 12 points.
The game also will serve as a lesson for St. James boys hoops coach Jeremy Heinold and his team, who despite not playing well had a shot at earning a win.
“We did a good job fighting at the end. Our team scrapped and clawed to try and win the game,” he said. “They stayed with it as long as they could. But we have to come out with more intensity to start games, we have to be more fired up.
“A lot of guys on this team love to play basketball. Now, we have to convert that energy into an organized thing where we hit shots, get looks we want and penetrate the middle.”
Lewis was the only player in double figures for the Sharks, leading them with 17 points in a losing effort.
STJ: Cameron Williams 5 , Mabry Godbold 4, Payton Lewis 17, Trey Myers 5, Jordan Furlough 5, Andrew Gasperson 2, Alex Holmes 2.
WAC: Connor Heimberger 10, Jawan Bryant 12, Lach Dancy 10, Boomer Frank 2, Ty’Shawn Richardson 5, Ronald Thompson 4.
3-pointers: STJ 6 (Lewis 4, Furlough, Williams), WAC 2 (Heimberger). Team fouls: STJ 20, WAC 10. Fouled out: None. Technical fouls: None.
An early flurry by St. James swiftly became a full-blown avalanche on Friday night, the Sharks using a fast start to overwhelm host Waccamaw, 57-22.
Leading the way for St. James was Abigail Rumpf, who scored 15 points in a winning effort. The Warriors had two players score 6 points apiece.
STJ: Illenne De Los Santos 8, Cherish Washington 5, Sarah Bryson 4, Abigail Rumpf 15, Dominique Gross 6, Kaswana Haynes 4, Alexus Alston 4, Hunter Clapham 8, Haley Brandon 2, Macquenzie Shults 1.
Home: Kaleah Rhodes 1, Samirah Murray 6, Anna Franklin 5, Alexandria Jaouiche 4, Aleah Bromell 6.
3-pointers: STJ 1 (Rumpf). Team fouls: STJ 15, WAC 12. Fouled out: Jabraya Brown (WAC). Technical fouls: None.