High School Sports

Lack of respect being used as motivation for area hoops teams

With players such as Jackson Hurston returning, the St. James boys basketball team has high hopes for the upcoming season.
With players such as Jackson Hurston returning, the St. James boys basketball team has high hopes for the upcoming season. For The Sun News.

The Grand Strand’s basketball teams will have to earn their respect.

When the South Carolina Basketball Coaches Association released its preseason rankings earlier this month, only two area teams were ranked. The Myrtle Beach girls were No. 6 in Class AAA and the Carvers Bay boys were No. 5 in Class A. Bears senior Arkel Williams was the lone mention for individual honors.

As for the rest? Well, they discovered that a lack of playoff success from the 2014-2015 season equated to being overlooked, at least at the statewide level, this time around. Much of it is understandable.

“It has a lot to do with ‘What have you done for me lately?’ Carvers Bay coach Jeff Mezzatesta said.

In total, 14 of the 24 boys and girls teams playing SCHSL ball made the playoffs last year. However, they combined to go just 8-14 once they got there. Ten of the teams who qualified were one and done.

And had it not been for the Carvers Bay girls, who advanced to the Lower State finals, or the St. James boys or Myrtle Beach girls — who each won two games in the playoffs — the overall tally could have looked much worse.

In many ways, though, the 2014-2015 season could be looked at as only the beginning. There is reason for hope for many teams moving forward.

The aforementioned teams with playoff success from last year all have reason to believe they can repeat some of their runs.

In earning their first home playoff game ever and advancing to the Lower State finals, the St. James boys basketball team relied on six strong upperclassmen. Garrett Mullis, Haywood Brandon and Tristen Fields are gone, but with guards Jackson Hurston, Jordan Fields and Zach Werba back in uniform, the front court should be able to help the Sharks keep pace with what it a guard-laden region. If Monty Carr’s team can navigate the likes of Wilson and Myrtle Beach, there’s no reason it shouldn’t be able to put itself in position for more playoff success.

The same goes for the Myrtle Beach girls.

Although head coach Jennifer Dennison is on medical leave (the school hopes to have her back in late-December), the Seahawks are as loaded as any area program. Last year’s team — one that lost to Crestwood in the Lower State semifinals — didn’t include a single senior. Dennison said immediately after that season-ending loss that this year’s team could be something special.

The roster backs that up. Speedy guard Keocia Walker has proved difficult to cover, and front-court standouts Nia Sumpter and Kiana Adderton have also shown player-of-the-year type talent.

Myrtle Beach is the likely favorite to win Region VII-AAA, a run that could start about the time Dennison is expected to return.

ALL ABOUT THE NUMBERS

If anything was clear during the 2014-2015 season, it was that much of the production individual teams were getting was coming from players who would be returning.

On the boys side, the area’s top three scorers, top four rebounders and three of the top four players in terms of assists are all back on the court for their respective schools this season. The girls lost top overall scorer and The Sun News Toast of the Coast Player of the Year in Carvers Bay’s Desaree Green and North Myrtle Beach’s Ronshelia Dewitt, respectively, who was fourth. However, eight of the other top-10 scorers are back, as well as the top five in assists and the top four rebounders.

Players like Carolina Forest’s Duane Moss, St. James’ Hurston (the boys Toast of the Coast Player of the Year) and Williams should be stat-stuffing again for the respective programs. Same goes for Tamara Jackson and Quadasia Gillard at Green Sea-Floyds, Aquera Johnson at North Myrtle Beach and Carolina Forest’s Alexis Tomlin, some of the names near the top of at least one category from a year ago.

Team breakdowns

BOYS

Carolina Forest

Coach: Brian Brunson

Coaching record: N/A

Team’s 2014-2015 Record: 5-18, fifth place Region VI-AAAA

Top returning player(s): Duane Moss

Biggest departure(s): None

School’s last playoff berth: 2013

Coach’s take: “Lots of new faces. Young group that has a great upside. Should improve upon athleticism and team speed. Success will be determined by how soon we commit to playing defense and how unselfish we play with the ball.”

Conway

Coach: Mike Hopkins

Coaching record: N/A

Team’s 2014-2015 Record: 15-9, 4th place Region VI-AAAA

Top returning player(s): Darren Stanley, Juwan Moody, Trenique Richardson

Biggest departure(s): Christian Jeffords, Jalen Hennigan

School’s last playoff berth: 2015

Coach’s take: “With the loss of nine seniors, there is lots of playing time available for a lot of players with little or no varsity experience. There will be some growing pains early, hopefully by region play things will be more settled.”

Socastee

Coach: DeAndre Scott

Coaching record: 17-31 at Socastee and 208-132 overall

Team’s 2014-2015 Record: 4-21, 6th place Region VI-AAAA

Top returning player(s): Jason Cudd, Tyler Rainer, Nijaye Foster, Aeneas Greene, Dalton Jonas

Biggest departure(s): Finn Melko, Devin Melko

School’s last playoff berth: 2014

Coach’s take: “Socastee hopes to rebound from a 2014-2015 season that saw a dip in form. We compete in, for my money, the best AAAA region in South Carolina, so how quickly our younger players can adapt and mesh with the returning players will significantly determine our ability to have success in the region.”

Georgetown

Coach: Alvin Walker

Coaching record: N/A

Team’s 2014-2015 Record: 6-18, 5th place Region VII-AAA

Top returning player(s): Cavonte Gamble

Biggest departure(s): None

School’s last playoff berth: 2013

Coach’s take: “Despite coming off a season without a playoff appearance, Georgetown will put all opponents on notice – ‘Beware of the Dogs’ for the 2015-2016 season.”

Myrtle Beach

Coach: Craig Martin

Coaching record: N/A

Team’s 2014-2015 Record: 7-19, 3rd place Region VII-AAA

Top returning player(s): Bryce Schneider, Adam Zam, Robert Swanson, Jaquan Chestnut

Biggest departure(s): Will Gray

School’s last playoff berth: 2015

Coach’s take: "Excited about this upcoming season and the team that we have representing MBHS. We look forward to getting back on the court and playing Myrtle Beach Basketball."

North Myrtle Beach

Coach: Cameron Koehler

Coaching record: 13-10

Team’s 2014-2015 Record: 13-10, 4th place Region VII-AAA

Top returning player(s): Josh Livingston, Caleb Guice, Kevliq Bennett, Mike Gore

Biggest departure(s): Matthew Stanaland, Drew Dunn

School’s last playoff berth: 2015

Coach’s take: “The North Myrtle Beach Chiefs are primed to be a tough, hard-working team that pride themselves on effort, execution, and intensity. With a lot of new faces, the Chiefs will work to gain their identity with every passing contest and grind to reach their ultimate goal.”

St. James

Coach: Monty Carr

Coaching record: N/A

Team’s 2014-2015 Record: 18-6, 2nd place Region VII-AAA

Top returning player(s): Jackson Hurston, Jordan Fields, Zach Werba

Biggest departure(s): Garrett Mullis, Haywood Brandon, Tristen Fields

School’s last playoff berth: 2015

Coach’s take: “Excited about the guard play we return. But we will not be able to sneak up on any teams this season"

Aynor

Coach: Greg Scott

Coaching record: First year

Team’s 2014-2015 Record: 14-10, 4th place Region VIII-AA

Top returning player(s): Caleb Jenerette

Biggest departure(s): Zack Jenerette, Jackson Woodle, Austin Windham

School’s last playoff berth: 2015

Coach’s take: “We lost five of our top six players from last year's playoff team, so we will be very young and our region is extremely difficult. But our expectation is to compete for a playoff spot.”

Loris

Coach: Adrain Grady

Coaching record: 15-25 in two seasons at Loris

Team’s 2014-2015 Record: 2-8 in Region VIII-AA, 5th place

Top returning player(s): Travon Morgan, Hedien Goodman, Travis Walters

Biggest departure(s): Zeke Beckman

School’s last playoff berth: 2010

Coach’s take: “We expect for our boys to play hard on the defense and smart on offense. Looking for our seniors to step up and have a solid year.”

Waccamaw

Coach: Mike Quinn

Coaching record: N/A

Team’s 2014-2015 Record: 13-11, 2nd place Region VIII-AA

Top returning player(s): Justin Busby, Kenley Vereen, Jawan Bryant, Tylik Edwards, Sam Woods

Biggest departure(s): Jack Dwyer, Rob Ferraro, Jemon Small, Justin Hardee, Doug Roe

School’s last playoff berth: 2015

Coach’s take: “We want to improve from last year by competing for a region title get a home playoff game and go past the first round of the state playoffs by working hard both on and off the court.”

Carvers Bay

Coach: Jeff Mezzatesta

Coaching record: 149-115 at Carvers Bay and 190-138 overall

Team’s 2014-2015 Record: 13-11, 2nd place Region VIII-A

Top returning player(s): Arkel Williams, DJ Goss, Tyrek Reed, Dijon Goss, C.J. Miller

Biggest departure(s): Eaddy Moore, Terry Bromell

School’s last playoff berth: 2015

Coach’s take: “We hope to challenge for a playoff spot in the very talent-laden, athletically crowded, and basketball tough Region VIII-A. We return a lot of talent and if this group of young men can focus on the small things and buy into the bigger picture, we have a chance to be competitive night in and night out.”

Green Sea-Floyds

Coach: Emmett Lay

Coaching record: N/A

Team’s 2014-2015 Record: 4-14, fifth place Region VIII-A

Top returning player(s): J’Shin Brownlee, Jaquez Geralds

Biggest departure(s): Shaq Jordan

School’s last playoff berth: 2013

Coach’s take: N/A

Christian Academy of Myrtle Beach

Coach: Darren Gore

Coaching record: 162-59

Team’s 2014-2015 Record: 21-5, 1st place SCISA Region VIII-AA

Top returning player(s): Bernard Jones, Michael Green, Jaylen Johnson, Robert Guyton, Jalen Matthews

Biggest departure(s): Josh Lang, Spencer Underwood

School’s last playoff berth: 2015

Coach’s take: “This should be a fun group to watch. I really believe they are ready to get after some teams this year and make a deep run in the playoffs.”

GIRLS

Carolina Forest

Coach: Stacy Hughes

Coaching record: N/A

Team’s 2014-2015 Record: 6-16, sixth place Region VI-AAAA

Top returning player(s): Alexis Tomlin, Cheyenne Pyles, Ellen Nardella

Biggest departure(s): Kia Brisbon

School’s last playoff berth: 2013

Coach’s take: “I am excited about our young group of kids, basically freshmen and sophomores. It will be a learning process this year but we are working hard and improving every day.”

Conway

Coach: Shamae Hemingway

Coaching record: 64-129

Team’s 2014-2015 Record: 11-11, 5th place Region VI-AAAA

Top returning player(s): Janecia Hemingway, Lenaejha Evans, Zakera Chadmon, Meme Williams

Biggest departure(s): None

School’s last playoff berth: 2008

Coach’s take: “The expectations for the CHS basketball team are to compete at a high level all season that will allow us to have a successful season and go to playoffs. This will take hard work and determination from everyone in order to meet these expectations.”

Socastee

Coach: Ginger Ford

Coaching record: 64-67 at Socastee

Team’s 2014-2015 Record: 12-13, 3rd place Region VI-AAAA

Top returning player(s): Mia Angelo, Shayla Baldwin

Biggest departure(s): Kira Bell (tentative)

School’s last playoff berth: 2015

Coach’s take: “Our team is young and we lack height. But after finishing last year with only six varsity players, these kids now know how to fight together through tough times.”

Georgetown

Coach: Tony Ford

Coaching record: N/A

Team’s 2014-2015 Record: 3-18, sixth place Region VII-AAA

Top returning player(s): Arian Lance, Rayna Crosby

Biggest departure(s): Kayla Howard

School’s last playoff berth: 2014

Coach’s take: “The team has a very strong sophomore class that took their bumps and bruises last season as freshmen, but has worked tremendously hard in the offseason.”

Myrtle Beach

Coach: Jennifer Dennison/Larry Bowen (interim)

Coaching record: 52-27 (Dennison)

Team’s 2014-2015 Record: 21-6, first place Region VII-AAA

Top returning player(s): Keocia Walker, Kiana Adderton, Nia Sumpter

Biggest departure(s): None

School’s last playoff berth: 2015

Coach’s take: “With everyone returning, the Lady Seahawks hope to once again compete for the region title and advance in the state playoffs.”

North Myrtle Beach

Coach: Jude Hunt

Coaching record: 120-105 in nine seasons at North Myrtle Beach

Team’s 2014-2015 Record: 12-13, fourth place Region VII-AAA

Top returning player(s): Aquera Johnson

Biggest departure(s): Ronshelia Dewitt, Ingrid Edge

School’s last playoff berth: 2015

Coach’s take: “We have a solid group of younger players who have put in a lot of time in the offseason. If we can manage to fill in some vacated spots at point guard and forward, we should be able to put a very competitive team on the floor.”

St. James

Coach: Stan Patterson

Coaching record: 77-45 in six years at St. James

Team’s 2014-2015 Record: 16-11, t-2nd place in Region VII-AAA

Top returning player(s): Kimmie Hotzelt, Kelsi Bachmann, Bethany Goodrich

Biggest departure(s): Anna Cavin

School’s last playoff berth: 2015

Coach’s take: “If we can stay healthy, we should be competitive.”

Aynor

Coach: Andy Bobier

Coaching record: 4-14 in one season at Aynor

Team’s 2014-2015 Record: 4-14, 5th place Region VIII-AA

Top returning player(s): Madison Barton, Annie Kroger

Biggest departure(s): Alexis Rogers

School’s last playoff berth: 2010

Coach’s take: “We have four starters returning from our team last year. This should allow us to have more experience in games and hopefully lead to a few more wins. The play of our point guard Madison Barton and our center Annie Kroger will ultimately determine how we do.”

Loris

Coach: Fred Grate

Coaching record: N/A

Team’s 2014-2015 Record: 2-17, 6th place Region VIII-AA

Top returning player(s): Myia Bellamy, Lanise Harris, Ikela Green

Biggest departure(s): Jasmine Farris, Jenna Keel

School’s last playoff berth: 2011

Coach’s take: “I expect this season to be very good. We have worked hard to improve on a lot of our shortcomings from last year. With the returning players from last year, I am looking forward to a positive year.”

Waccamaw

Coach: Marion Busby

Coaching record: 12-11 in one season at Waccamaw

Team’s 2014-2015 Record: 12-11, third place Region VIII-AA

Top returning player(s): Dee Funnye, Samirah Murray, Jada Torrance

Biggest departure(s): Alexis Grove, Sydney Derrick

School’s last playoff berth: 2015

Coach’s take: “Very young team but the girls are in their second year of my system looking to improve on Waccamaw-best finish in region last year.”

Carvers Bay

Coach: Issiah Tucker

Coaching record: 48-17 in three seasons at Carvers Bay

Team’s 2014-2015 Record: 18-5, 1st place Region VIII-A

Top returning player(s): Anatashia Bromell, Laquasha Coles, Tiera Young, Taleaa Adams

Biggest departure(s): Desaree Green

School’s last playoff berth: 2015

Coach’s take: “Working toward another great season.”

Green Sea-Floyds

Coach: Tracy Kienast

Coaching record: 12-25 in two seasons at Green Sea-Floyds

Team’s 2014-2015 Record: 10-9, 4th place Region VIII-A

Top returning player(s): Tamara Jackson, Quadasia Gillard

Biggest departure(s): Kensenya Jackson

School’s last playoff berth: 2015

Coach’s take: “Our goals for this year are to continue to rebuild/grow the program, to not only make the playoffs but to advance, and to challenge for the region title.”

Christian Academy of Myrtle Beach

Coach: Kelsey Anselmi

Coaching record: First year

Team’s 2014-2015 Record: 15-16, 2nd in region

Top returning player(s): Chloe Parker, Caroline Gore, TeTe Jones

Biggest departure(s): Mary Chandler Butler

School’s last playoff berth: 2015

Coach’s take: “With a very young roster, the Lady Saints look to use this season to develop its strengths while also focusing on the details of the game. Look for the team to surprise a couple of teams this season with our athleticism.”

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