Timing is everything … even when it comes to the flu bug.
The infamous virus reared its ugly head last week on the Grand Strand, playing a role in down attendance figures at this year’s edition of the Beach Ball Classic.
“It’s been going around, and that has hurt us just a little bit,” said Myrtle Beach mayor and Beach Ball Classic executive director John Rhodes. “We’ve had good turnouts, but some of the things that happened during games also may have played a role in things.”
While no one wants to catch the flu, early on in the tournament blowouts seemed to be just as contagious.
During the first two nights of Beach Ball, seven games were decided by 25 points or more – particularly during the Tuesday session, which saw five of six contests with large margins of victory. On average, those games were decided by almost 22 points.
“It kind of caught us by surprise,” Rhodes said. “The biggest thing about it, though, was that the teams that did win by those large margins played extremely well in doing so. And also did it against some very strong teams.”
Fortunately, the final three days of competition at Beach Ball saw business pick up.
Tournament organizers could not have asked for a better close to the event, with 11 games being decided by six points or less. In comparison to the opening two days, only three contests saw margins of victory 20 points or greater.
Imhotep Charter (Pa.) was particularly responsible for its share of noncompetitive matchups early on in the tournament, winning its first three games by a combined 85 points. Its route to the title game was by no means a crystal stair either, defeating perennial powerhouse Bishop Gorman (Nev.), Dillard (Fla.) and Christ the King (N.Y.) – the last of which the Panthers defeated by 39 points in their Beach Ball opener.
I can’t even explain what I’m feeling. It feels great … our goal is to show everyone nationally we can really play.
Imhotep Charter (Pa.) guard and Rhode Island commit Daron Russell, after his team claimed the Beach Ball Classic title
Of those three, Christ the King left the Grand Strand with the consolation bracket title, while Dillard claimed third place with an overtime victory over Pace Academy (Ga.), 54-51.
It was a much different story in the tourney final, though, as Imhotep needed a putback by South Carolina commit David Beatty to earn a hard-fought 78-76 win over Evanston Township (Ill.).
“It’s an amazing accomplishment. We’ve been scratching and clawing to get some sort of national title,” said Imhotep guard and Beach Ball Classic MVP Daron Russell, whose miss was rebounded and put back by Beatty to win the Beach Ball championship. “I can’t even explain what I’m feeling. It feels great … our goal is to show everyone nationally we can really play. We accomplished one of our goals, now we have a few more to win city and state championships.”
For the tournament runner-up, it was a bitter pill to swallow. The Wildkits opened Beach Ball with a narrow 53-52 win over Providence (Fla.), so being on the opposite end of heartbreak wasn’t the way they wanted to leave Myrtle Beach.
“It was a one-possession game. We started out with the mentality this would be a fight all night,” said Evanston Township (Ill.) coach Mike Ellis. “I think we lost that mentality for a moment, but I think our kids got that back. They could have panicked when we got down three possessions, but our kids kept fighting.
“We came back, came back and played to the last second, but didn’t finish the final second.”
Feast or famine
Beach Ball Classic 2016
Total avg. margin of victory: 14.3 ppg
Days 1 and 2
Avg. margin of victory: 21.9 ppg
Largest margin of victory: 39 – Imhotep Charter (Pa.) def. Christ the King (N.Y.), 73-34
Smallest margin of victory: 1 – Evanston Township (Ill.) def. Providence (Fla.), 53-52
Avg. margin of victory: 10.1 ppg
Largest margin of victory: 28 – Imhotep Charter (Pa.) def. Dillard (Fla.), 80-52
Smallest margin of victory: 1 –Westchester (Calif.) def. Scott County (Ky.), 54-53; Christ the King (Fla.) def. Providence (Fla.), 49-48