Wins have been quite rare for Socastee and Myrtle Beach at the Beach Ball Classic.
Reasons to celebrate after the opening round of competition have been an even rarer commodity.
On Wednesday, Socastee unearthed a gem by downing Spartanburg Day 63-56 in overtime.
It was the first victory by the Braves — or any other local team — in winner’s bracket competition since 2001.
“I told my guys in the locker room and I have been preaching to them over the past couple years since I took over the program that they must have pride and they have to understand the tradition with this tournament,” said Socastee basketball coach Derrick Hilton. “Socastee has been one of the host teams for a while, ever since we had the tournament at the school and when it was moved to the Myrtle Beach Convention Center.
“We just wanted to get back to competing and being able to get out here and get better before we got into region play.”
Lees-McRae commit Andrew Gardner led Socastee with 18 points. Jay Williams and Marcus Hemingway joined him in double figures with 17 and 10 points, respectively.
Spartanburg Day’s Matthew Brown led all scorers with 21.
With the win, Socastee moves on to play the nation’s top-ranked team in Montverde Academy.
Sure, Spartanburg Day’s biggest weapon in top prospect Zion Williamson was ruled out of the contest with a foot sprain. The Griffins were also missing a couple of other starters due to injury and other personal obligations.
Regardless of who was in the Griffins’ lineup, Hilton encouraged his team to take advantage of this opportunity in the limelight.
“I told my team it doesn’t matter who was dressed out or who they were playing against, when they go back to the record books it will say Socastee and Spartanburg Day and we got in the win column,” he said. “I’m very proud of my team and the way they came out and played together. We played smarter, and we played together.”
Socastee found itself an early hole, though, going down eight points midway through the first half. Instead of trying to erase the deficit all at once, the Braves instead chose to stay the course and were rewarded for it.
“(Hilton) just wanted us to slow down, execute and play defense,” Gardner said. “He emphasizes those a lot. Those are the three main things he wants us to do.”
Add converting free throws to that mix.
In overtime, the Braves were 5-of-6 from the free throw line. As for Spartanburg Day, its inability to make shots from the free throw line were magnified in the extra frame, going 1-for-4 at the line.
The Griffins made only 3-of-17 shots in the contest.
Getting some company
Scott County (Ky.) has been the only game in town for more than 30 years, since the other school in Georgetown, Ky., closed.
But that’s about to change.
The only school in Scott County, which has made 10 Beach Ball appearances since 2001, is about to be joined by a second school thanks to America’s first and the world’s largest Toyota manufacturing facility in Georgetown that has quickly expanded the population.
Cardinals longtime coach Billy Hicks said the new state-of-the-art school with lavish amenities that is set to open in 2019 is expected to take approximately 1,200 of Scott County’s current 3,000 students and is just three miles from the existing high school.
It will likely have a great golf team, with an indoor driving range, according to Hicks. “They’re going to have great facilities. It’s going to be the best facility in the state," he said.
But will it hurt the highly competitive Scott County basketball program? Most of Hicks’ basketball players come from within four miles of campus and from the other side of town from the new school.
“I don’t think it will hurt basketball at all,” Hicks said. “I think they’ll pull from the western end of the county. That’s a lot of golf courses and a lot of really nice neighborhoods out there.”
Scott County lost to Moeller (Ohio) 60-41 Tuesday night for a rare lopsided loss in the Beach Ball Classic. The Cardinals are 17-16 in their 10 appearances with a pair of fourth-place finishes and a 2011 consolation championship, and rebounded from their opening round loss with an 83-55 win over Myrtle Beach on Wednesday.
Who is that masked man?
If you’re watching defending Beach Ball Classic champion Imhotep (Pa.) play, it’s 6-6 junior forward Chereef Knox.
Knox broke his nose in the season opener and is a couple weeks into about a month of having to wear a plastic mask to protect it.
It has taken some getting used to, though it didn’t stop Knox from missing just one of his six field goal attempts Tuesday and hitting both of his free throws while grabbing eight rebounds in a 53-49 win over Bishop Gorman. He lifted the mask to his forehead to hit the key free throws with 10 seconds remaining and the Panthers leading by only one point.
“Sometimes when I turn, the middle, the part that is protecting my nose, is taking my eyesight away,” Knox said. “So when I shoot free throws so it doesn’t get in my way I just pull the mask up.”
Imhotep coach Andre Noble said Knox is notorious for his chatter and facial expressions on the court, and the mask gives the team a respite from them, though Knox said they just aren’t as easily recognized.
“They can’t really see it,” said Knox, who has received offers from Howard, Rider, Monmouth and Hofstra and undoubtedly has more coming.