Caitlyn Cooler had been anticipating Friday night's game against Beaufort Academy for quite some time.
The senior guard for Thomas Heyward Academy had spent most of her life down the road at Beaufort Academy -- beginning all the way back in pre-kindergarten -- before transferring to play for the Rebels after her ninth grade year.
"This is the game I've been waiting for all year, all season," Cooler said.
Suffice it to say, she wasn't disappointed in the outcome.
Cooler poured in a game-high 18 points while Brielle Jungblut added 16 more as the Rebels cruised to an easy 65-20 victory over the rival Eagles. With the win, Thomas Heyward moved its record to 17-0 while improving its SCISAA Region 1-AA record to 6-0. Beaufort Academy dropped to 7-9 and 4-5 in region play.
Cooler and senior forward Ashlie Layman helped pace the Rebels in the first half with 10 points apiece as Thomas Heyward jumped out to a commanding 35-12 halftime advantage. The lead swelled to 38 early in the third period as the Rebels opened the second half on a 15-0 run.
"We talked about trying to lessen the turnovers and try our best to overcome the fear of playing such a good team," Beaufort Academy coach Jay Gardner said. "After the first quarter and especially after halftime, everyone had that look on their face like, 'This isn't as bad as we thought it would be.'"
The Rebels will attempt to keep their perfect record alive next Tuesday at home against St. Andrews. If that is going to happen, Thomas Heyward will need to clean up its execution on the both sides of the ball, coach Gary Mazzanna said.
"It becomes hard to have them believe that they're making mistakes when they're winning by 40 or 50 points," Mazzanna said. "We made a ton of 'em tonight but we get away with it. One of these days we're going to play somebody and we're not going to get away with it."
Thomas Heyward Academy girls 65, Beaufort Academy 20
Thomas Heyward (17-0, 6-0 SCISAA Region 1-AA) -- Caitlyn Cooler 18, Brielle Jungblut 16, Ashlie Layman 11, Jamie Malphrus 6, Briana Kelnoffer 6, Taylor Ernestine 2, Andrea Daring 2, Haley Davis 2, Jessie Hubbard 2
Beaufort Academy (7-9, 4-5 SCISAA Region 1-AA) -- Miranda Westlake 9, Katherine Neal 5, Megan Debardelaben 2, Kiana Fortner 2, McKenzie Blake 2
Beaufort Academy boys 55, Thomas Heyward Academy 44
Beaufort Academy basketball coach Chip Dinkins didn't have much of a scouting report on Thomas Heyward's Will Richardson.
He knew entering Friday's game that Rebel guards J.D. Tuten and Ryan Day could potentially give the Eagles some fits. Richardson, however, didn't necessarily fit into that category.
So when the senior forward torched Beaufort Academy for 12 second quarter points -- six of which came from behind the arc -- Dinkins opted to change things up.
"He hit those three 3's and I couldn't believe it," Dinkins said.
Leading by one at the half, Dinkins decided to set aside the Eagles' 3-2 zone defense in favor of more man-to-man pressure in the hopes of shutting down Richardson and the rest of the Rebels offense.
The move paid off.
Richardson was shut out in the second half and the Rebels connected on just 17 points over the final 16 minutes as Beaufort Academy claimed a hard-fought 55-44 win at home.
"Coach mentioned at the half that (Richardson) was hitting some lucky shots and we needed to take care of that," said Michael Bible, who scored 11 points and grabbed nine boards for the Eagles (8-8, 5-4 SCISAA Region 1-AA). "Obviously, we did."
Thomas Heyward (6-9) trailed by just four with four minutes to play before Bible and Preston Suber, who scored a game game-high 25 points, pushed the deficit to 10 with a 7-1 run. The Eagles were able to hang on from there, staying in contention for a coveted spot in the state playoffs. Beaufort Academy can all but assure its place in the tournament with a win next Tuesday at home against Bible Baptist.
Thomas Heyward (6-9) -- J.D. Tuten 15, Will Richardson 14, Nick Keiffer 7, Taylor Cowart 4, Ryan Day 4
Beaufort Academy (8-8, 5-4 SCISSA Region 1-AA) -- Preston Suber 25, Michael Bible 11, Connor Akers 8, Jack Griffith 6, Nathan Cheung 3, Billy Dailey 2