Bluffton boys basketball coach Brett Macy said two words to his team at halftime Tuesday night before walking out of the locker room.
"Play tough," he said.
The Bobcats led by just four at the break over a Battery Creek team that Bluffton decimated by 40 points just a month ago.
"We came out thinking that it was just going to be another easy game, which let us lose our focus," senior Bryson Bell said. "We just came together at halftime and talked. Coach stepped out and let us talk to each other and let us get our focus going."
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Bell and fellow senior Michael Grant spoke in hopes of helping the Bobcats regroup for the final 16 minutes. The halftime speeches worked, as Bluffton emerged with a 73-62 win over the Dolphins to maintain its first-place standing in Region 7-AAA.
"The first half, focus was an issue," Grant said. "We beat them bad last time, so going into this game, people thought we were going to do the same thing. But you could see that they were prepared and ready this time."
The Bobcats (18-2, 8-1) used a critical 9-0 run early in the second half to pull away from the pesky Dolphins (4-19, 1-8). Bell led the charge with two buckets in the run -- part of his team-high 15 points -- while B.J. Hill added a 3-pointer from the top of the key. A 12-0 run midway through the second-half helped put the game away for good.
"I told our guys they're going to play tough," Macy said. "They had zero to lose. Absolutely nothing."
The big second half helped Bluffton overcome a frustrating start. The two teams combined for 33 fouls and took a total of 41 shots from the charity stripe in the first half. Justice Oliver helped keep the Dolphins in the game with 16 first-half points. The guard finished with 25.
Bluffton returns to action tonight at home against Hilton Head Prep, and Macy knows the Bobcats will need to be more focused, as a loss would give Lake Marion back the tiebreaker in the region standings. The Bobcats then conclude region play Friday against rival Hilton Head Island High.
"We've got to win all three games (this week)," Macy said. "Hopefully tonight was a wake-up call and we bring it together."
Bluffton boys 73, Battery Creek 62
Battery Creek (4-19, 1-8 Region 7-AAA) --Justice Oliver 25, Michael Robinson 14, Leroy Jennette 6, Devontae Wilson 6, Tyrone Kelson 4, Teyvon Jennette 3, Raheem Cooper 2, Miguel Crawley 2
Bluffton (18-2, 8-1) -- Bryson Bell 15, BJ Hill 10, Harlan Kendrick 9, Michael Grant 8, Dimitri Lowry 7, CJ Frazier 7, Bo Strimpfel 6, Demetrius Smalls 6, Jeremy Scott 4, Marquis Webber 1
Bluffton girls 43, Battery Creek 26
Senior Night was exactly that for the Bluffton High girls basketball team.
Only seniors cracked the scoring column for the Bobcats against Battery Creek, as they cruised to a victory in the final regular-season home game for six Bluffton basketball players.
Shakeria Kitty and Tibra Wheeler both poured in a game-high 13 points while fellow seniors Jennifer Giles and Alex Bailey added 11 and six points, respectively.
"I guess it just meant something," coach Lonnie Roberts said. "Congratulations to the seniors."
Bluffton (18-4, 8-1 Region 7-AAA) controlled the game from the outset, taking a 17-6 lead after the first period. Giles collected eight of her 11 points in the first eight minutes. Bluffton coasted into intermission up by 21.
"The first half, I thought we played with a lot of intensity," Roberts said. "The score indicated that. When we got the festivities in our mind, with it being Senior Night, you'd think we would play a lot better in the second half. But it seemed like we did enough just to win."
Battery Creek (5-14, 4-5) limited the Bobcats to just one basket in the third period, but by then the damage was done. Alisha Varela had a team-high 11 points for the Dolphins. Daisja Cannon added nine.
Bluffton returns to the floor on Friday against rival Hilton Head Island High, where a win would help the Bobcats claim a tie in the region standings. The Seahawks edged Bluffton by a point in overtime when the two teams last met.
"I have a prediction," Kitty said with a smile and Senior Night flowers in her hand. "I think the Bobcats come out on top."
Battery Creek (5-14, 4-5 Region 7-AAA) -- Alisha Varela 11, Daisja Cannon 9, Khadijah Badger 4, Jasmine Wallace 1, Ronesha Stevenson 1
Bluffton (18-4, 8-1) -- Shakeria Kitty 13, Tibra Wheeler 13, Jennifer Giles 11, Alex Bailey 6