Ken Updike understands that his Hilton Head Island High School boys basketball team has the tendency to go through dry spells.
But it's how the Seahawks respond from those troublesome times that has the coach's eye.
Hilton Head High ran into one of those runs Tuesday against Berkeley, as the Stags erased a 30-19 halftime deficit to tie the score midway through the third quarter. But strong defense and a patient offense helped the Seahawks navigate their way to a 50-47 win in the Region 8-AAA opener.
"We came out with an 11-point lead and we just felt like we would add another 11 to it," Updike said. " ... It doesn't work like that. Every region team wants the same thing. They want to win the region, they want to go to the playoffs.
Never miss a local story.
"You don't want, you don't go to the playoffs."
Hilton Head High (9-6, 1-0) built the favorable advantage at halftime thanks to four 3-pointers and a 9-0 run midway through the second half that staked the Seahawks to a 10-point lead. But Berkeley (4-8, 0-1) fought back thanks to a 17-6 run to tie things up at 36-all, and the Stags took their first lead of the game at 43-42 with just over six minutes remaining.
"We just got too laid back," said Hilton Head High's Michael Julian, who tallied a game-high 22 points and 10 rebounds. "Coach told us to keep our foot on the pedal, and we came out way too laid back. We played passive, not attacking."
That passive style wasn't aided by the Seahawks' free throws woes, either. Hilton Head High finished just 4 of 20 from the charity stripe, including a 2-of-15 mark in the second half as the Stags fought back.
"That's mental to me," Updike said. "That's being in a situation when you're not regaining confidence, not regaining focus. When we do pressure free throws in practice ... they sure knock them down there."
The Seahawks were, however, aided by a big performance from James Sanders, who tipped in a handful of balls around the rim for 11 critical points. The senior also took a charging foul with under two minutes to go with Hilton Head High up three, then grabbed the front end of the ensuing 1-and-1.
"Shooting the way we did from the free-throw line, he saved us tonight," Updike said. "Big Game James, as we call him."
Hilton Head High boys 50, Berkeley 47
Berkeley -- D'Andre Richardson 10, Tairi Major 10, Omaine Thomas 9, Diamonte Harley 7, Molik Meggett 5, Darius Milford 4, Tyrahn Bradford 2
Hilton Head High -- Michael Julian 22, James Sanders 11, Aaron Frazier 8, Troy Clifford 4, Jacob Coltrane 3, Craig Ryan 1, Matt Pollard 1
Hilton Head High girls 41, Berkeley 27
A quick 10-0 outburst helped the Seahawks cruise to a win in their region opener, but it wasn't anything coach Dave Greenberg left feeling too good about.
"I don't think we played very well," Greenberg said. "I don't want to take anything away from them, they played hard. But we looked like we'd only practiced three times since before the break. We just need to practice more. In every aspect, we can improve."
Americal Jenkins led all scorers with 10 points and seven rebounds, while Zion Campbell added five boards of her own. Guard Lauryn Bush finished with nine points and five assists.
The Seahawks (11-4, 1-0) built an early lead, but the Stags (3-9, 0-1) managed to keep pace for most of the way after that.
"You tell them that 10 points is nothing in basketball," Greenberg said. "But kids, they start feeling good. We have to play with our best effort all the time and we have to do the little things right. We got away from that tonight, I thought."
Berkeley -- Priscilla Washington 8, Jill Funk 8, Ashlynn Smalls 6, Desiree Brown 2. T.T. Mustapher 2, Bria Liferidge
Hilton Head High -- Americal Jenkins 10, Lauryn Bush 9, Savannah Reier 7, Zion Campbell 4, Austin Seelbach 3, Areli Fernandez 3, Rachel Friend 2, Brennan O'Gorman 2, Shy Flemming 1