It had been less than 12 hours since Bluffton's football season came to a close, and yet, there was wide receiver Demetrius Smalls preparing for basketball in the high school's gymnasium.
"I came into the gym and just started pulling jump shots," he said. "I told coach I'm the guy to go to from the 3-point line this year."
Smalls lived up to his word. With sharpshooter Dimitri Lowry having graduated and fellow guard C.J. Frazier at the North-South All-Star game, Smalls delivered a game-high 20 points -- including five buckets from beyond the arc -- and the Bobcats emerged with a season-opening 75-61 victory over former region rival Battery Creek.
"He plays well this time of year because he's always in shape," coach Brett Macy said of Smalls. "He's never tired. Even when all those football guys are getting their legs, he's good. He can shoot it, there's no doubt about it."
Smalls connected on a pair of 3-pointers early in the first period and two more later in the first half as Bluffton (1-0) built an early 30-10 lead. With their full court pressure supplying a bevy of Battery Creek (0-2) turnovers, the Bobcats held on the rest of the way.
"We came out wanting to play defense and rebound," Smalls said. "We got an early lead, kept the tempo up and put the pressure on them. They weren't able to handle it and we got a big lead."
They did so without a trio of key players, as Frazier was joined by post player Marquis Webber at the North-South game while center Chance Murphy was held out for an Achilles injury. Stepping in place for them were players such as Ahdnous Cofer and Jay Middleton, both of whom received their first extensive playing time at the varsity level.
"We had three of our top six or seven not play tonight and those guys stepped up and they played hard," Macy said. "We didn't play perfect, but we played hard. I thought, for a week's practice, we played very well."
The Bobcats return to the floor Friday night at Hilton Head Island High, where they will try to exact revenge on last year's thrilling 41-40 defeat in the regular-season finale. The Dolphins, meanwhile, travel to Class 4-A rival Beaufort High.
Bluffton boys 75, Battery Creek 61
Battery Creek -- Devontae Wilson 21, Raheem Cooper 13, Ikeem Powell 11, Adonis Williams 7, Yuneek Crittendon 6, Christian Brown 3
Bluffton -- Demetrius Smalls 20, Harlan Kendrick 11, Jay Middleton 11, Ahdonus Cofer 10, Anthony Smith 7, Austin Chittum 7, Jeremy Scott 5, B.J. Hill 4
BATTERY CREEK GIRLS 64, BLUFFTON 50
A one-point Dolphins advantage midway through the fourth period turned into a rout by game's end, as Battery Creek used a 17-5 run to close out its first victory of the season.
Junior Daisja Cannon led the way, as the guard repeatedly cut through the middle of the Bobcats' interior defense for a career-high 34 points. Alisha Varela added 11 in the victory while Alex Bazemore tallied eight of her own.
"That was my goal, to get over my (career-high) score," Cannon said. "The game plan was (that) I pass the ball and cut through the middle to score."
The Dolphins' experience came through in the end, as Battery Creek (1-1) turned a back-and-forth affair into a laugher thanks to Cannon and a bevy steals that led to breakaway baskets. Battery Creek returned all five starters from a season ago while Bluffton (0-1) is replacing all five of its starters from last year's Region 7-AAA championship team.
"At first we were kind of nervous," Cannon said, "but we finally got in it and played our game."
Battery Creek -- Daisja Cannon 34, Alisha Varela 11, Alex Bazemore 8, Erica Alston 4, Elizabeth Ford 4, Brianna Tolbert 2, Matalyn Dearsman 1
Bluffton -- Tiffany Banks 15, Annidet Giles 11, Autumn Card 10, Monique Whitley 6, Tatyana Fripp 6, Amber Klitzsch 2