Toast of the Coast

How one major decision led Tomlin, Carolina Forest girls basketball to new heights

Carolina Forest's Alexis Tomlin is The Sun News' Toast of the Coast Girls Basketball Player of the Year.
Carolina Forest's Alexis Tomlin is The Sun News' Toast of the Coast Girls Basketball Player of the Year.

As young as she may have been, Alexis Tomlin was beat up by the grind and made a decision to walk away from basketball.

She was just an eighth-grader, but she already had a year of varsity hoops under her belt. And, even then, she thought she was done with the sport. Tomlin the budding Carolina Forest volleyball star put Tomlin the budding Carolina Forest basketball star on the shelf.

“I was playing on four teams at one time - travel volleyball and basketball and high school volleyball and basketball. It just wore me out,” she said of the decision to temporarily quit basketball. “I’m so glad I did (return to basketball). Those are some of the best memories I have from my high school years.”

Her teammates, coaches and Panthers fans are thrilled she came back after that one-year hiatus, too.

Tomlin, The Sun News' Toast of the Coast Girls Basketball Player of the Year, led Carolina Forest to what could be considered the best season in school history and undeniably the best since it moved to the state’s largest classification prior to the 2008-2009 school year.

The team won 20 games, went undefeated in region play to win the league championship and then advanced to the third round of the Class 5A state playoffs. Tomlin was the biggest reason why.

The 6-foot-1 forward averaged more than 20 points and 12 rebounds per game to finish her career with nearly 1,600 points, more than 1,300 rebounds and just shy of 350 blocks. She was named the South Carolina Basketball Coaches Association Class 5A Player of the Year and was selected for the Carolinas Classic All-Star game, to be played March 24 in Wilmington, N.C.

It was everything coach Stacy Hughes believed Tomlin could develop into when she told Tomlin’s parents during that year off that their daughter could become the best post player Carolina Forest had ever seen.

“She was a good kid who worked hard,” Hughes said. “I told her parents when she didn’t play that year I was so disappointed. It killed me at the time. I didn’t want her to waste her talent.

“The thing that separates Alexis from other really good post players is her competitive edge. She’s got that competitive fire. That’s her. She’s got that fire engrained in her. You don’t get those types of kids all the time.”

It is part of the reason Tomlin is in the running for class valedictorian status, and that drive certainly showed in her final game for Carolina Forest.

During that third-round loss to Goose Creek, she scored the team’s first 12 points and finished with 17 against one of the best defenses in the state, regardless of class.

“To come up short in that last game was disappointing,” she said. “But to look at the whole year and win that region title, it was fun. I don’t have any regrets. I think that this season was one to remember.”

The team

Player of the Year

Alexis Tomlin

School: Carolina Forest

Class: Senior

Notable: SCBCA Class 5A Player of the Year averaged 20.4 points and 12.1 rebounds per game en route to a Carolinas Classic All-Star invitation. Finished her career with 1,589 points, 1,309 rebounds and 346 blocks.

Lenaejha Evans

School: Conway

Class: Senior

Notable: Class 5A All-State and all-region selection averaged 14.2 points, 4.9 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 2.1 steals per game for the Tigers.

Ikela Green

School: Loris

Class: Senior

Notable: Class 3A All-State selection had 1,100 career points and a huge senior year that included 15 points, three assists, three steals and three rebounds per game.

Neci Hemingway

School: Conway

Class: Senior

Notable: North-South All-Star game selection average 10.1 points and 10 rebounds per game as a senior and finished her career with more than 1000 of each category.

Tamara Jackson

School: Green Sea-Floyds

Class: Senior

Notable: Class A Player of the Year scored 21.7 points while adding 5.4 rebounds, five assists and 4.3 steals per game. Scored 1,919 career points for the Trojans.

Meme Williams

School: Conway

Class: Senior

Notable: Guard led Conway back to the state playoffs by leading the team in scoring with 15.2 points per game while also averaging 4.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 2.7 steals.

Coach of the year

Stacy Hughes

School: Carolina Forest

Notable: Panthers’ 16-year head coach steered the team to an undefeated Region VI-5A record and into the third round of the state playoffs for just the second time in school history.