Brett Macy paced back and forth through the Bluffton High School hallway Tuesday night before finally heading to the locker room to speak with his Bobcats.
He was gathering his thoughts about what exactly to say to his basketball team, a group that finished as arguably the best to put on a Bluffton uniform.
"Coaches, we get to come back and reasses what we're doing. Those seniors, they don't," Macy said afterward. "It's over for them now. It's tough to address them.
"Certainly we choked up and it was hard to address them in a way where you give them their due."
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The Bobcats cranked out a bevy of firsts during the 2011-2012 campaign. They reeled off 19 wins for the first time, captured their first holiday tournament title and claimed their first Region 7-AAA championship.
But all those firsts went by the wayside Tuesday, as the Bobcats' postseason run ended prematurely at the hands of Socastee, which claimed a 70-61 upset win in the Class 3-A playoff opener.
It was the second time in as many seasons that the Bobcats fell at home in the first round. A year ago, Bluffton dropped a 60-50 decision to Marlboro County in The Den.
"To look those kids in the eye is just tough," Macy said. "To know where they were and where they've developed into a basketball player."
Free throws were the story this time around, as the Bobcats (19-4) finished just just 9 for 25 from the charity stripe, including a 6-for-16 mark in the fourth quarter. Socastee, meanwhile, connected on 15 of its 19 free-throw attempts.
"Free throws are a big deal in this game and that's what killed us," said senior Dimitri Lowry, who scored a game-high 26 points. "I don't think it was a mental thing. It just wasn't our night from the free-throw line."
Bluffton wasn't a great free-throw shooting team by any stretch this season, finishing at just under 70 percent as a team. But Tuesday's performance clearly wasn't one the Bobcats saw coming.
"The whole game came down to free throws, which is a shame," Macy said. "We were ready to play. I think we all know that it was going to be a good game. I certainly did."
Added Lowry: "The thing that beat us was ourselves. We were trying too hard to make plays."
The Bobcats kept pace with the Braves (14-9) through the first three quarters before Socastee began to distance itself over the final eight minutes. The Braves took a 1-point lead into the half on a buzzer-beating tip-in by See Man before Travis Frye put Socastee up four going into the fourth on a deep 3-pointer as time expired.
"That shot at the (end of) the third quarter, it was a pretty big dagger," Lowry said. "Because they had the momentum on their side and we had to come back."
The Braves finished strong from there, as Socastee opened the final frame on a 9-2 run before pulling away for the win.
"It just wasn't our night tonight," senior Michael Grant said. "During the game, we were making shots and everything. We just couldn't make the free throws."
Despite the loss, the Bobcats left Bluffton High proud of their accomplishments this season, which featured almost too many firsts to count.
"What these kids have accomplished in their time with me is remarkable. ... I'm not sure we have a college basketball player yet," Macy said. "It's amazing what they got done with just playing extremely hard and being athletic."
Socastee 70, Bluffton 61
Socastee (14-9) -- Travis Frye 18, Donovan Cann 14, Will Caswell 12, See Man 11, Patrick Gardiner 6, Tyler Matthews 5, Matthew Scalise 2, Chris Marflake 2,
Bluffton (19-4) -- Dimitri Lowry 26, C.J. Frazier 11, Bryson Bell 8, B.J. Hill 7, Jeremy Scott 5, Michael Grant 4