High School Basketball

Whale Branch boys come back to beat Battery Creek, 71-63

Battery Creek girls use stingy defense to win, 37-29

sfastenau@beaufortgazette.comJanuary 12, 2014 

They did it again.

If the Whale Branch Early College High School boys basketball team finds a sticky spot against a quality Region 5-A opponent, or later in the Class 1-A playoffs, it will have two games in early January from which to draw.

The Warriors traveled to rival Battery Creek High School on Saturday and spotted the Dolphins a 15-point second-half lead before rocketing past for a 71-63 victory.

It was the Warriors' second double-digit, second-half comeback of the week on the road against a larger school. Whale Branch nipped Bluffton on Wednesday, 54-53.

"We're used to it," said Whale Branch guard Simeon Middleton, who hit the game-winning shot Wednesday. "It's not like it's something new to us. We just kept our head up."

The matchup of top-10 teams -- Whale Branch the top-ranked team in Class 1-A and Battery Creek the eighth-ranked team in 2-A -- matched its hype.

Whale Branch coach Linc Lyles said he wanted the second installment of the rivals' series in January, so that the experience would remain fresh late in the season and in the playoffs.

Both teams return to region play next week.

Battery Creek led 45-30 on Yuneek Crittendon's layup with 4:05 remaining in the third. Justin Rhode, who led Whale Branch with 21 points, and Simeon Middleton helped lead the charge back.

Both teams dealt with foul trouble late. Devonta Glover and Michael Middleton fouled out for Whale Branch. Crittendon fouled out after 23 points. And Battery Creek big man Eric Freeman was limited in the second half due to foul trouble, allowing Whale Branch the edge underneath on the offensive glass.

"He's so much for us on the defensive and offensive end," Battery Creek coach Antoine Youmans said. "He's our intimidator, and he closes out defensive possessions with rebounds. We missed that for a greater portion of the third quarter."

Freeman's alley-oop dunk from Crittendon with 3:01 remaining was Battery Creek's last highlight.

Lyles credited the Warriors' depth for their performance late in games. He platoons much as he did last season during the Warriors' run to the Class 1-A title game.

After their loss to Lewisville a year ago in the state championship, he told his players fitness is what would help them get over the top.

"I'll put our bench up against anybody in the state, at any level," Lyles said. "And I think that's what you saw happen... We were tired, but we still have a gear most people don't have."

Whale Branch boys 71, Battery Creek 63

Whale Branch (10-3) -- Justin Rhode 21, Denzel Daniel 16, Simeon Middleton 13, Marlon Williams 9, Michael Middleton 6, Devonta Glover 4, Chavonne Simmons 2

Battery Creek (9-4) -- Yuneek Crittendon 23, Adonis Williams 16, Eric Freeman 12, Devonta Wilson 8, Jason Green 2, Christian Brown 2

Battery Creek girls 37, Whale Branch 29

The Battery Creek girls basketball team finally mastered the formula.

During two previous meetings with rival Whale Branch, the Warriors had scored more than 50 points each game and won both. Since a 10-point loss at Whale Branch to open the regular season, the Dolphins had been plotting their path to redemption.

As with each of the Dolphins' victories this season, the plan began with defense.

Battery Creek wanted to pressure Whale Branch guard Kemoni Jenkins and keep Warriors' post players in check. It accomplished both.

"That's what brought us through, our defense," said Battery Creek's Brianna Tolbert, who finished with 10 points and three steals. "We were determined to win -- that's what we wanted, and that's what we got."

The 29 points were the Warriors' second-lowest total of the season. The Dolphins held Jenkins to four points.

Battery Creek's Daisja Cannon completed a double-double with 10 steals to go with her game-high 17 points.

Whale Branch's Cheyenne Rogers finished with 15 points -- 13 of them in the first half.

The Dolphins return to the Region 6-AA schedule Tuesday at North Charleston after an important boost of confidence.

"Just play hard," Cannon said of the Dolphins' takeaway from Saturday's win. "Just want it till we get it."

Whale Branch (9-5) -- Cheyenne Rogers 15, Shaniqua Johnson 6, Kemoni Jenkins 4, Jimesha Mitchell 2, Jonae Riley 2

Battery Creek (9-4) -- Daisja Cannon 17, Brianna Tolbert 10, Ericka Alston 4, Taniqua Mungin 4, Shanice Pusha-Powell 2

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