The Bluffton-based Carolina Ballers basketball team dropped its opener Monday in the championship bracket of the AAU 8th Grade Division II Nationals at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando, Fla.
The Ballers fell 60-52 to Charleston-based Carolina 843 in a back-and-forth game.
"Our team played hard, but we just didn't have enough to pull out a victory," Ballers coach Jacob Morrow said. "We could have won had we hustled from the time the first whistle blew until the clock stopped at zeroes in the fourth quarter. We needed to box out more and win the 50-50 balls. We stressed to the kids to (keep it simple). We let another game get away from us.
"We're still proud of our first-year team with all the accomplishments they have made."
The Ballers face the Cincinnati Bulldogs at 2:40 p.m. Tuesday in the consolation round. With a win, the Ballers stay alive. With a loss, their play is concluded.
The Ballers advanced to the championship round, despite going 1-2 in pool play over the weekend, thanks to point differential.
The Ballers lost their opener, 52-48, to Florida Gamespeed, before winning their second game, 54-43, over Ring City (N.J.).
Their third game was a 66-43 loss to the Arkansas United Soldiers, who went 3-0 in pool play.
"They were the most fundamentally sound team we've played," Morrow said.
The Ballers fell behind 27-4 in the first quarter.
"The first quarter is where they punched us in the mouth," Morrow said. "We fell apart. We stayed with them in the second, third and fourth, but we could never get back in the game."
Morrow said his expectations had been met and his team had "played its heart out."
"I'm just proud of my boys," Morrow said. "They went from 148 teams down to 74. They are very stoked, their parents are happy. We're all proud of them."