High School Basketball

Basketball team helps create winning tradition quickly at Whale Branch

Warriors go for state title against Lewisville

sfastenau@beaufortgazette.comMarch 2, 2013 

Linc Lyles fielded the question Monday in the S.C. High School League offices.

It was media day for coaches and players competing in this weekend's state championship basketball games, and someone asked the Whale Branch Early College High School coach how his program had gotten so good, so quickly. After all, Whale Branch is only in its third year.

Lyles, who has coached the Warriors boys all three seasons, said expectations were realistic in the beginning, and that players' attitudes drove the team to aim higher the past two seasons.

"You just can't start at a brand new school with no seniors and start talking about a state title day in and day out," Lyles said. "Reality sets in and it's more of a pipe dream. If you're around our kids, their expectations are so high. There's no lifting them up. They're already there."

Part of the confidence could come from the success of the school's other teams. In three years, Whale Branch already has a state championship, with the boys track team winning the Class 1-A title in 2012. The football team won its first playoff game this season, after beating Class 3-A Hilton Head Island High School and new rival Battery Creek High School during the regular season.

And both the girls and boys basketball teams were ranked in the top five much of the season, and both clinched the school's first region basketball championships on the same night.

The Whale Branch boys basketball team is already as far as it has been in the playoffs and can add another milestone by beating Lewisville today in the Class 1-A championship at Colonial Life Arena in Columbia. The team traveled to Columbia on Friday, leaving to a rousing send-off from students and supporters in the Whale Branch Middle School parking lot.

Here's a look at some key sporting moments in the school's brief history:

Aug. 20, 2010: Whale Branch wins first football game

Whale Branch and first-year head coach Rob D'Amato hosted Baptist Hill in a brand new stadium, with anticipation high.

The Warriors delivered for their new fans, winning 26-14 after leading 20-0 at halftime. Davon Mack was the star, returning a fumble 55 yards for a touchdown and sacking Baptist Hill quarterback Shaquille Mitchell for a big third-down stop during the second half.

"The kids and I wanted to go out and perform well for everybody," said D'Amato, who returned to Goose Creek as an assistant after the 2011 season. "And we did."

May 12, 2012: Warriors win state track title

Andre' Watson wasn't at Whale Branch long, but he had a major impact.

The Warriors sprinter won state titles in the 100-meter dash and 200, breaking an 11-year-old state record in winning the 200. The senior's time of 21.16 seconds edged the mark established by Richland Northeast's Airese Curry in 2001 by a hundredth of a second.

Watson's powerful legs propelled the Whale Branch boys to the Class 1-A state track and field championship at Spring Valley High School. It marked the first state championship of any kind for the then second-year school.

"I put it all together today and it showed," Watson said. "I can't do nothing but thank my coaches and teammates for pushing me every day."

Nov. 2, 2012: Football notches first playoff victory

The second time was a charm.

Playing second-ranked Allendale-Fairfax for the second time in two weeks -- this time in the opening round of the Class 1-A Division I playoffs -- Whale Branch won 32-22, avenging a tough 14-7 loss the previous week.

Dee Delaney caught a 52-yard touchdown strike from Brandon Morton to help lead the Warriors. In the second quarter, with the Tigers holding a 14-8 lead, Tyrick Spicer blocked an Allendale-Fairfax punt and Javonta Delaney ran it in for a touchdown, and the Warriors took a 16-14 lead.

"It was a slugfest," Whale Branch assistant coach and athletics director Carlos Cave said.

The Warriors advanced to play at Estill, but lost in the second round.

Feb. 6, 2013: Delaney signs with The Citadel

Whale Branch senior Dee Delaney became the school's first Division I football recruit to sign. He chose the Bulldogs over offers from Presbyterian and Georgia State.

The athletic receiver and lightning-quick returner will be tried at defensive back for the Bulldogs. Delaney welcomed the change, but said he also wanted a shot at his natural position.

"I asked him for a little offensive time," Delaney said. "He said he'll see what he can do."

Delaney has earned all-state honors in football and basketball as a senior. He'll try to add a third honor after baseball season.

Feb. 23, 2013: Boys basketball wins Lower State championship

Whale Branch might have been written off by some. Without two of its top players, the Warriors might have appeared vulnerable.

But a strong team effort helped Whale Branch defeat Carvers Bay 73-60 at Florence Civic Center and advance to the state championship game. Dee Delaney and Denzel Daniel each scored more than 20 points and posted double-doubles. Freshman guard Justin Rhode chipped in 15 and point guard Terrell Hazel contributed key hustle plays in the backcourt.

Whale Branch overcame the distraction of not having brothers Simeon and Michael Middleton, who sat for religious observance.

"Our kids fought through all the distractions," Whale Branch coach Linc Lyles said.

Feb. 23, 2013: Ford wins state wrestling championship

Junior wrestler Max Ford capped off the most successful day in Whale Branch's athletic history, winning the Class 2-A/1-A heavyweight state championship just hours after the boys basketball team claimed the Class 1-A Lower State title.

Ford, who won a 6-3 decision in the opening round a day earlier, advanced to the championship match with a second-period pin of Keenan's Morris Williams. Then Ford, giving up about 40 pounds to Newberry's Eric Gallman, claimed the title with a 5-3 decision. Ford finished the season with a 43-7 record despite wrestling the entire season with a torn labrum.

"He has more heart than any young man I've ever met in my life," Whale Branch coach Travis Wynn said.

Class 1-A boys basketball championship

Who: Whale Branch (24-3) vs. Lewisville (20-7)

Where: Colonial Life Arena, Columbia

When: 12:30 p.m. Saturday

TV: Time Warner Cable, Channel 520, will be showing all of the state championship games.

Admission: $10 for all games, children 5-and-under are free

Details: Handheld signs, posters and noisemakers are not permitted.

Watch online: The game will be broadcast on schsl.playonsports.com for $3.95. Click the box for the Class 1-A boys basketball final under the "Upcoming," tab to order.


Lewisville Lions

Record: 20-7

No. Name Pos. Yr. Ht. Wt.

10 Mardarius Bailey G Sr. 5-7 160

12 Jarris Elder G So. 6-0 165

15 Obbie Sarduay G/F Jr. 6-0

20 Jarom Cousar G Sr. 6-0 160

23 Qua Walls G Sr. 6-1 175

25 Evan Sisk So. 5-11 140

30 Drea Bailey G So. 5-9 170

33 Cody Montgomery F/C So. 6-4 170

44 Garrett Mullis F/C So. 6-6 187

50 Deveeon Corbeam C/F So. 6-7 230

Whale Branch Warriors

Record: 24-3

No. Name Pos. Yr. Ht. Wt.

3 Chavone Simmons G Jr. 6-0 150

4 Jovel Coackley G Jr. 6-0 NA

5 Dee Delaney G Sr. 6-1 187

10 Simeon Middleton G Jr. 5-11 160

11 Fredrick Lamb G So. 6-0 NA

12 Justin Rhode G Fr. 5-11 150

14 Damian Brown G Jr. 5-9 165

20 Charles Jiles F Sr. 6-0 170

22 Marcus Bell II F Sr. 6-0 175

24 Terrell Hazel G Sr. 5-8 165

30 Michael Middleton F So. 6-2 195

32 Denzel Daniel F Jr. 6-2 190

34 NyQuan G-Smith C Sr. 6-2 170

40 Devonta Glover C Jr. 6-3 180

42 Jay Abney F Jr. 6-2 190

44 Malik Spicer C Sr. 6-4 175

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