The laughter makes it better.
Minutes after a physical game with Fort Dorchester, Beaufort High School girls basketball players could only laugh as they left the court. A tough season brightened when the Eagles defeated the Patriots, 45-34, for their first region victory -- and in their final home game of the season.
"It's been rough down the stretch," said senior guard Emani Gray, who scored a game-high 18 points. "We were like, 'This is our last home game. We've got to win this.' Everybody put in the effort and we came out with a win."
Tough luck marked Beaufort High's season, with the Eagles losing Mykalah Smalls to injury before the season and senior post player Ebony Watson limited much of the season by injury. Coaches and players say their camaraderie helped them endure the bad stretches, that everyone got along. Gray said the Eagles will keep in touch long after the school year ends.
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"They just like each other," Eagles coach Lillian Keeler Aldred said. "We've not got enough done on the court like we've needed to, but they're a good group."
The mood was light again when the Eagles retreated to the locker room after a messy contest. Beaufort High shot 37 free throws and made 14.
Fort Dorchester attempted 10 free throws, a point of contention from Patriots coaches and supporters throughout the game, which finally resulted in a late technical foul.
But the victory stood. Beaufort High (6-14 overall, 1-6 Region 8-AAAA) closes the season Friday at region power Colleton County.
"Hopefully we can give the a run for their money," Gray said.
The Eagles knew they should fare better against the Patriots on Tuesday, since they missed Watson and fellow post player Paris Smith during the teams' first meeting last month, a 36-33 Fort Dorchester win.
This time, Beaufort High endured a Patriots' run on both sides of halftime and another to start the fourth quarter. Foul trouble halted any hope of the Patriots building momentum after that.
Beaufort High shot 18 foul shots during the final 6:07. Fort Dorchester was held to one field goal during the same time period.
Beaufort High girls 45, Fort Dorchester 34
FORT DORCHESTER (3-16, 1-6 Region 8-AAAA)-- Brianna Chisolm 11, Leah Robinson 6, Randi Chandler 6, London Sharper 6, Erika Cobb 2, Ashlee Compton 2
BEAUFORT HIGH (6-14, 1-6)-- Emani Gray 18, Ebony Watson 11, Jordan Fields 6, Paris Smith 6, Veneshia Holmes 4
Fort Dorchester boys 46, Beaufort High 45
The intensity was there, the effort Beaufort High coach Bruce Beasley wanted to see from his team in its final regular season home game of the season.
But now his group will need some help if it wants to return to Kirkland Court for the postseason. Beaufort High had a chance to win at the buzzer, but Jordan Broussard's shot from the baseline rimmed out.
"I thought it was good," said Beaufort High senior Tyrone Holmes, who finished with 19 points. "It came out."
Fort Dorchester withstood a 10-0 Eagles' run during the fourth quarter to gain the inside track to the No. 2 seed from Region 8-AAAA. Beaufort High needs a victory Friday at Colleton County and a Fort Dorchester loss to Summerville to force a tiebreaker for the second seed and home playoff game.
The Eagles led by four with 4:07 remaining after Holmes scored his final basket. They would only score once more.
The Patriots took advantage of holes in the Beaufort High zone to slip in for offensive rebounds and key putbacks down the stretch.
"We just didn't get it done in crucial times," Beasley said.
Fort Dorchester's winning points were delivered at the free-throw line with 30 seconds remaining. The loss was Beaufort High's second straight after falling Feb. 3 at Summerville.
FORT DORCHESTER (5-2 Region 8-AAAA)-- Trey Bryant 15, Chris Bouse 10, DJ Benekie 5, Baptiste Staggers 4, Lance Davis 3, Bradley Fraiser 2, Rasheed Smith 2
BEAUFORT HIGH (13-9, 4-3)-- Tyrone Holmes 19, Adonis Grant 8, Jordan Broussard 7, Martin Washington 6, Henry Jenkins 3, Darrae Alston 2