Matching up on the hardwood for the third time in just over a month, the Socastee girls gutted out a victory over Region 6-5A foe St. James by a score of 29-27, advancing in the Class 5A playoff bracket.
The Braves (15-7) relied on a strong pressure defense and second chance points to move on in the state playoffs. St. James (13-11) put up a strong fight and gave Socastee another strong test on the year.
“We knew that they would give us a tough contest, because of how well they play defense,” said Socastee coach Kelly Lewis. “That’s our calling card and that’s their calling card; we both want to play low-scoring, defensive games. We don’t mind (scoring less than 30 points) as long as we come away with the win. That’s what the playoffs are all about, surviving and advancing.”
The game began with two struggling offenses, or incredible defenses, as the first quarter ended with Socastee leading 5-4. In the first quarter, and for much of the game, St. James played without star Cherish Washington, who had to sit with foul trouble. Picking up the offensive slack was Hunter Clapham, who put up a game-high 18 points with four made 3-pointers.
Things would pick up in the second and third quarters, with St. James scoring seven and eight points, with Socastee putting up nine and 12 points in the two quarters. The fourth quarter saw a defensive stalemate break out to a further degree, as Socastee managed only three points, on a made free throw and a layup, but held off an eight-point charge by the Sharks to secure the win.
St. James coach Paul Hudacko pointed to a litany of errors that his team made as reasons they didn’t pull out a first-round upset.
“We had too many turnovers, missed free throws and issues handling the ball tonight,” he said. “This game never got away from us, we gave it absolutely everything we had and I couldn’t be more proud of my team. Their effort tonight was amazing.”
Hudacko spent more than 20 minutes talking to his team in the locker room following the final buzzer. He spent time telling his team – especially the seniors – that they laid the cornerstone for the Sharks program to blossom in the future.
“We’ve built from six wins to 13 wins in a year and it’s all thanks to this team and this senior class,” he said. “Cherish (Washington), Kendall (Heidt), Emily (Andrews), Hunter (Clapham) and Anna (Wallace Lee) are integral pieces of the building we are doing here and what will happen in the future. I told them in the locker room that every game we win going forward and once we win that first playoff game; it will be because of their effort this season. That’s why their handprints are painted in our locker room at home.”
With the win, Socastee will host a second round playoff game on Feb. 15 against James Island, which defeated West Ashley 49-45.