Christian Academy of Myrtle Beach got the Zion Williamson treatment again this year.
After falling victim to 51 Williamson points in last year’s South Carolina Independent Schools Association (SCISA) Class 2A championship game, Williamson put it on the Saints again Thursday night in the semifinals.
The 6-foot-7, 270-pound man-child dropped 40 points and a variety of dunks on the Saints to help Spartanburg Day advance to the championship game with an 83-55 win at the Sumter Civic Center.
“He is a special athlete. He makes it hard altogether,” Christian Academy of Myrtle Beach coach Colin Stevens said. “We thought at some points we were defending him pretty well and he took some really difficult shots and still made them. Then he had some that weren’t so difficult that he had to make difficult on his own by doing a 360 or a windmill or something crazy.
“. . . I would say he’s a once-in-a-lifetime type player, type athlete altogether.”
Williamson is considered to be perhaps the best high school player in the country – his competitors for the title are another couple players who are also committed to Duke – and he once again lived up to the billing.
The Griffins (19-8) led 22-6 after the first quarter, and Williamson had 17 of the 22. He punctuated his early production with six dunks in the first quarter.
“Zion is pretty amazing, I think we can all agree with that,” Spartanburg Day coach Lee Sartor said. “Talent-wise he’s so good, but the thing that makes him really good is his attitude and his mentality and his approach to the game. He just refused to let us play bad. He comes out and makes sure he’s ready and he makes sure his teammates are ready. He’s been a great leader for us.”
The Saints (18-10) can blame in part the Trinity-Byrnes girls team for the Griffins’ fast start. Trinity-Byrnes bounced Spartanburg Day’s girls in the semifinals just before the boys game Thursday.
“We had just watched our girls lose. It was very sad, because going to school with some of those girls for four years, I know how bad they wanted it,” Williamson said. “I told my teammates if you don’t come out here ready to play that could be us going back here crying and stuff. I just had to set the tone for them.”
The Saints fell 76-51 in the championship game last year, and Thursday’s game got away from them even faster.
“The game, honestly, by the end of the first quarter we never had any control of it,” Stevens said. “We just didn’t play well. We would have had to play well and disciplined to beat a good team with a special player and we didn’t. . . . The rest of the team is a good team, too. He makes them better but they’re a good team.”
With the Griffins holding a comfortable lead in the second half, Williamson tried to provide a highlight he’s never before accomplished in a game. On a breakaway following a turnover, he attempted a 360-degree that included transferring the ball between his legs from his left to his right hand. The dunk attempt shot off the back of the rim.
“I made that dunk like one time, but I just wanted to try it in a game one time,” Williamson said. “That was my first time. I just kind of caught it and I said, ‘You know what, why not?’ I think I just tried to dunk it too hard. I think if I would have like eased off I would have probably made it.”
Williamson said there is more to show of his game than dunks, though he doesn’t always shot it in a game.
“I do try to show more, but I’m not going to force it,” he said. “If it’s not there it’s not there. I can do everything, but I’m just trying to stick to getting a lead up quick.”
Junior guard Michael Green, who is receiving Division I college interest, scored a team-high 21 points for the Saints, hitting eight of 15 shots, including five of 10 three-point attempts, and Davis Guyton had nine points on a trio of 3-pointers.
But Spartanburg Day is poised to win its third consecutive state championship.
“This team has been battle tested, and it has been their goal all year long to play for the championship, and they came out and played defense probably better than we’ve played all year,” Sartor said. “Myrtle Beach is a great team, they’ve got great offensive players. We wanted to take away their tendencies and we were able to do that in the first quarter to set the tone for the game.”
Spartanburg Day had four players score in double figures. Senior guard Chandler Lindsey scored 16 points, 6-5 senior forward Matt Brown scored 10 and senior guard Kyle Tracy had 12 to complement Williamson.
There may be more coming for Trinity-Byrnes of Darlington on Saturday in the championship game, considering it will be Williamson’s last hurrah before heading to Duke.
“It’s going to be my last game in high school, outside of all-star games, so tomorrow at practice we’ll write down all the basics and what we need to do, come out here and play our game and hopefully that will lead us to a state championship,” Williamson said.
Myrtle Beach Christian loses a few players to graduation. Sam Woods, a 6-foot-7 forward who averaged 9.2 points and seven rebounds per game this season, is likely to be playing in college next season and has a number of Division II offers and some Division I interest, according to Stevens. Robert Guyton, a 6-foot guard, hopes to play collegiately, 6-foot guard Jaylen Johnson will likely play college football, and guard Jalen Busby averaged 3.3 points per game.