Dee Delaney and his Whale Branch Early College High School basketball teammates might still be adjusting their legs and lungs from football season, but the senior wanted to shove that out of the picture.
Whale Branch wants to push the pace, no matter the potential excuses. And Wednesday that meant trying to upset Hilton Head Island High School's halfcourt sets and move out in transition.
"We were just trying to figure out a way to get in our game," Delaney said. "We're a fast-paced team."
For 3 1/2 quarters, the Warriors showed little early-season fatigue and held on late to defeat the Seahawks, 56-53, at home to open the season. The Warriors led by 15 with 5:10 remaining but were held without a field goal the rest of the way as the Seahawks worked back in. Hilton Head High had a chance to tie with 7 seconds left, but Michael Julian's 3-point attempt was too strong.
Seahawks coach Ken Updike was calm after his team's opening loss. He said he wanted to see how players responded to situations and felt the Seahawks had executed well down the stretch, including the final sequence. These games will prepare Hilton Head High for region, he said.
"We got the shot we wanted at the end," Updike told his coaches after the game. "He makes that shot nine times out of 10."
Whale Branch coach Linc Lyles was less impressed with his team's late effort, but said he would reflect on the positive when he goes over the video with his team. He preached the importance of finishing during a postgame meeting in a classroom adjacent to the gym but said he didn't want to dwell on the negative.
The Warriors received a boost from several junior varsity players who were part of a 17-1 team last season. Freshman guard Justin Rhode led Whale Branch with 12 points on Wednesday. Sophomore Michael Middleton added 9.
Lyles wanted to make a play on the ball before Hilton Head High got too deep in its halfcourt sets. The constant screens and motion worked to zap players' energy, he said.
A 10-0 run during the third quarter helped Whale Branch create separation and a few missed Warriors' dunks down the stretch could have helped seal the victory sooner.
"Obviously I like to play fast and press and trap, and that worked for a little while," Lyles said. "But the only way to do that is to finish plays."
Whale Branch boys 56, Hilton Head High 53
Hilton Head High-- Aaron Frazier 18, Jacob Coltrane 13, Michael Julian 11, Craig Ryan 8, James Sanders 3.
Whale Branch-- Justin Rhode 12, Michael Middleton 9, Dee Delaney 8, Simeon Middleton 8, Jay Abney 7, Denzel Daniel 6, Charles Jiles 4, Terrell Hazel 2.
Whale Branch girls 58, Hilton Head High 55
Whale Branch girls basketball coach Wilbert Bryant, without the aid of two fully funtioning scoreboards, might have been confused late during Tuesday's victory over county rival Hilton Head High.
The Warriors enjoyed a comfortable cushion much of the game but when it mattered, played as if they had ground to make up, rushing shots and not bleeding the clock.
"We've got to learn to play with a lead," Bryant said. "It's not the same with a lead."
Still, Whale Branch defeated the Seahawks despite a personal-best 27 points by Hilton Head High's Americal Jenkins. The Warriors helped offset Jenkins with freshman post player Jonae Riley, who finished with 18 points, and returning all-state selection S'Nitra Mack.
Whale Branch led by 12 at the half and by nine entering the final quarter. But Jenkins and the Seahawks began executing their secondary break against the Warriors' zone pressure and converted second-chance opportunities. Jenkins' baskets pulled Hilton Head High within three twice during the final minute.
The Seahawks had life after Whale Branch turned the ball over on an inbounds play with 7 seconds left. But Hilton Head High missed two layups as time expired.
Hilton Head High-- Americal Jenkins 27, Macy King 9, Lauryn Bush 6, Zion Campbell 5, Austin Seelbach 4, Savannah Reir 4.
Whale Branch-- Jonae Riley 18, Kenyada Moultrie 14, Kemoni Jenkins 12, Sharrin Reed 10, Thek 6, Rivers 4, Chapel 2, Thompson 2.