The first basketball playoff game at Whale Branch High School didn't carry the pressure of the postseason.
The Warriors joked at the free throw line during warmups. Guard Kemoni Jenkins pointed to a teammate and accused her of stepping over the line.
And Jenkins bounced through player introductions, bumping fists with officials before trotting to midcourt.
"(We were) in the locker room talking about how good it feels to be in the playoffs, just stuff to get us hype," Jenkins said.
The looseness carried through tipoff. Whale Branch used a 2-2-1 press to rattle Charleston Math and Science and rolled the Riptide, 65-28, to earn the school's first basketball playoff victory.
Jenkins, a freshman who has provided the Warriors with the much-needed ball handler they missed during the inaugural season, finished with 11 points and delivered seven of the team's 17 assists. Shaniqua Johnson, a freshman and the other half of the touted tandem from Whale Branch Middle School, scored a game-high 16 points and grabbed seven rebounds.
Whale Branch coach Wilbert Bryant called off the press for much of the second half and rested his starters through the bulk of the fourth quarter.
The damage was done. The Warriors finished with 35 steals and had notched a place in the school's history.
Bryant repeated to his players before the game his "One team, one goal," saying. He told them to play as a team, to share the ball and look inside first.
"They did a great job of that tonight," he said.
Twenty-five Warriors' points during the first quarter helped bury Charleston Math and Science, the No. 3 seed from Region 6-A. The Riptide were without post player Allie Walker, who averaged a double-double before she was injured last week, coach Brett Phillips said. He acknowledged Walker's presence might not have affected the result.
"We asked some younger kids to step in," Phillips said. "We've got a bright future."
The Warriors proved too balanced. In addition to Jenkins and Sharrin Reed in the backcourt, Whale Branch now boasts Johnson to accompany S'Nitra Mack and Deborah Fields in the post.
Mack, who sneaked into Bryant's office after the victory for a customary postgame cupcake, said she was disappointed in her individual performance (eight points, six rebounds) but didn't care, that the important part was the Warriors advance.
"I told them to focus on this game," he said. "It does them no good to look ahead if you lose tonight."
Whale Branch girls 65, Charleston Math & Science 28
WHALE BRANCH (15-6)-- Shaniqua Johnson 16, Kemoni Jenkins 11, S'Nitra Mack 8, Deborah Fields 8, Kenyada Moultrie 6, Sharrin Reed 4, Tasheka Wright 4, Shaquanna Green 2, Brittney Pryor 2, Cynthia Rivers 2, Monique Bing 2
CHARLESTON MATH AND SCIENCE (12-11)-- Monejah Black 9, Shanetta Sabb 8, Jessica Scott 4, Jessica Coaxum 2, Angel Richardson 2, Sarah Larsen 2, CC Nelson 1
Ridgeland 61, Cross 20
The Jaguars are off and running.
Carrying the same mantra that guided the school to the Class 1-A title last season, Ridgeland High School girls used its defense and high-tempo to frustrate inexperienced Cross.
"I think we have pretty much the same focus," Ridgeland coach Frederick Toomer said. "The defense is going to create the opportunities for us. Once we get that going, we get more opportunities in the offense and keep going from there."
Senior guard April Jenkins led the Jaguars (20-4) with 15 points. Tiara Nelson added 13 and NyJae Boozer finished with 11 to round out the Jaguars in double figures.
Ridgeland hosts the East Clarendon-Latta winner Thursday at 7 p.m.