Jennifer Dennison knew her team had already performed well beyond expectations, finding its way to the Class 4A Lower State final against two-time defending state champion North Augusta on Friday; she saw the game as playing with house money.
In a measuring stick game, the Seahawks (20-7) fell 44-26, sticking with the Yellow Jackets for much of the game. Mistakes in the middle of the contest and a strong North Augusta defense suffocated the Myrtle Beach offense, with the Yellow Jackets feeding off the miscues.
“(My team) played hard, the difference was that my young girls turned it over too much and that was the difference in the game,” Dennison said. “They didn’t quit when we got down, but we see what we need to do to get better. We’ve got to get in the weight room to get stronger and then learn how to make better decisions.”
The first quarter saw Myrtle Beach take the lead twice, once at 4-3 and again at 8-5, but that lead would be short lived and non-existent for the rest of the game. North Augusta would lead 21-8 in the second quarter, eventually winning the game by 18 points.
“We needed to execute better on offense, we missed a lot of tip-ins and layups around the rim. Those are big opportunities that we just weren’t able to complete,” Dennison said. “We’re good; we have to keep our head held high. We played a great team in North Augusta and hung with them for a while. We see where we want to get, now we have to put the work in to do it.”
On the North Augusta side, veteran coach Al Young took over a team that had won back-to-back state titles, yet has a toughness that is generally seen in an upstart program.
“I think that’s what our girls have been about all year; they’re some fighters,” he said. “I tell them before games, I’ll go anywhere with them, they’re my girls and I’ll go fight with them anytime. I know, deep down inside, they’ve got something there that you can’t teach. I’m so proud of them, because they’ll fight through anything.”
North Augusta’s captain, Mya Burns, was left mostly ineffective and fought injuries in the game, but the depth of the Yellow Jackets prevailed.
“We knew that Myrtle Beach had a good team coming in and they played really well defensively, and we were just glad to stick around defensively to pull away from them,” Young said. “…I thought, for the most part, (we) did a good job of getting out in front and not taking bad shots. Overall, I thought they did real well and showed a lot of self-discipline.”
Myrtle Beach, a team with only three seniors, will return next season with a wealth of talent and a deep playoff run on its resume, while North Augusta will continue to play for another state championship on Saturday against South Pointe.