Of late, Carolina Forest’s Alexis Tomlin has produced at quite the rate, notching a double-double seemingly on a nightly basis.
The result of such performances, however, can be a two-edged sword, bringing with it added attention — both desired and that which is unwanted.
Tomlin received more than her share of “unwanted” attention in the post Thursday night, when her Panthers faced off against rival Socastee in a pivotal Region VI-5A contest. Fortunately for the standout forward, teammates had her back.
Guards Ellen Nardella and Cheyenne Pyles each scored 18 points, allowing Carolina Forest to rout the Braves, 58-39. With the victory, the Panthers clinch second place in the league and a first round home playoff game.
“This one was big. I told the kids we really needed to focus on this one, because it basically secures us second place in the region,” said Carolina Forest girls basketball coach Stacy Hughes. “Depending on what we do against Conway, things could change. But we will definitely have the No. 2 seed and a first-round home playoff game. That makes a huge difference.”
From the outset, Carolina Forest’s sharpshooters made their presence felt, knocking down seven 3-pointers in the first half of play, allowing it to take a 33-12 lead into the halftime break. Of that total, the backcourt combo of Nardella and Pyles connected on five of those shots from deep range.
“We were like 7-for-15 or something like that from 3-point range at halftime,” Hughes said. “Their game plan was to clog up the middle and take Alexis away, so Cheyenne and Ellen came up big with their outside game, knocking down some 3s.”
For the game, the Panthers knocked down 10 shots from beyond the arc.
Having faced Carolina Forest twice this season — once in a preseason tournament, as well as the first round of league play — Socastee girls basketball coach Kelly Lewis knew what her team was up against. But even she was caught off guard by the Panthers’ hot shooting from distance.
“We knew we needed this to be a low-scoring game for us to have a chance, and it wasn’t,” Lewis said. “We take a lot of pride in our defense. Our girls worked hard, but you have to credit Carolina Forest. They made plays, they’re a really good team.”
Eventually, the Panthers would cool from beyond the 3-point line. However, by this point the final result had long been decided.
In addition to Nardella and Pyles finishing in double digits, Tomlin had 13 points in a winning effort. Socastee’s Shayla Baldwin led all scorers with 20 points.
Next up for Carolina Forest is a rematch with Conway, which dumped the Panthers 60-41 a few weeks ago.
On that occasion, the teams were merely battling for first place in Region VI-5A. On Monday, the rivals will battle for much more — a league title.
“I expect my team to want to pay them back for the loss we took last time,” Pyles said. “I think we had an off game, and our team hasn’t (won a region title) in forever. It would be nice to leave that in my junior year.”
CF (58): Gabby Giracello 3, Cheyenne Pyles 18, Ellen Nardella 18, Jordan Martin 2, Alexis Tomlin 13, Lauren Hall 4.
SOC (39): Marta Galindez 4, Shayla Baldwin 20, Hailey LeDuc 4, Haley Altman 9, Mercer Roberts 2.
3-pointers: CF 10 (Giracello, Pyles 4, Nardella 4, Hall), SOC 2 (Baldwin 2). Team fouls: CF 11, SOC 12. Fouled out: None. Technical fouls: None
Records: CF 15-6 (7-2 Region VI-5A), SOC 11-11 (5-4 Region VI-5A)