Stifled for two quarters, the Myrtle Beach offense came alive in the second half, easily pulling away from AC Flora 51-28 to advance to the Class 4A Lower State championship game.
The Seahawks (20-6) doubled up AC Flora in the second half to cruise to the third-round playoff victory, thanks in large part to a stifling defense that began in the second quarter. Myrtle Beach found itself down 10-9 at the end of the first period, but led 19-12 at halftime thanks to a 10-2 second quarter. The Seahawks would ride that momentum into a 32-16 second half in which every Myrtle Beach player took the floor.
“This was a total team effort,” said Myrtle Beach coach Jennifer Dennison. “We are a young team, we start three freshmen. Right now, we’re playing with house money because of how young we are. Most of my players are just getting their first taste of playoff experience.”
While they may lack in playoff experience, the Seahawks certainly have big-game experience. They’ve been tested on this playoff run, beating No. 1 seed Hilton Head 62-12 in the second round and South Aiken 48-15 in the opening round, with both games taking place on the road.
“Tonight, I challenged my seniors to give me everything they had,” Dennison said. “I didn’t need to remind them that tonight was going to be the last time they suited up to play on this floor, they knew that. (After starting slow) we executed at a high level and made plays down the stretch.”
AC Flora didn’t make it easy, playing tough defense throughout the game, stacking the lane to prevent Myrtle Beach’s forwards from getting to the basket. Myrtle Beach made adjustments, but found its best offense came when its defense sparked the way, turning Falcon turnovers into transition points.
When AC Flora turned to fouling halfway through the fourth quarter, Myrtle Beach responded by making 13-16 free throws in the quarter to salt away the game. With under two minutes left, Dennison emptied her bench and made sure each of her 14 varsity players got a taste of a home playoff game.
“Tonight was special for this team,” she said. “We always want to play well at home and after making adjustments to what (AC Flora) did, we were able to get our crowd into the game.”
The road warrior Seahawks have to return for the Lower State final, where Myrtle Beach will take on defending Class 4A state champions in North Augusta, which defeated Wilson 66-45. The Yellow Jackets, who went undefeated last season, are 26-1 on the season.
Myrtle Beach will travel to Florence to take on North Augusta in the Florence Center on Friday at 7 p.m.