Terrell Hazel is a shooter.
On a Whale Branch Early College High School boys basketball team that takes pride in its role players, Hazel is comfortable in his niche.
He simply shot more often Saturday.
The Warriors guard found his touch early and helped fill a big void as Whale Branch defeated Bluffton, 62-57, at home to sweep the teams' two games this season. Hazel finished with a personal-best 16 points.
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"We worked as a team," Hazel said. "And we got the job done."
His contribution helped offset the absence of starting forward Dee Delaney, who was in Charleston visiting The Citadel. Delaney sent coach Linc Lyles a text message before the game, told him to tell the team to play hard and all would fine.
"That kind of relaxed me a little bit," Lyles said.
Warriors forward Michael Middleton dropped in a big 3-pointer and later a driving layup in the final 2 1/2 minutes to push Whale Branch ahead each time. His brother, Simeon, helped secure the victory with late free throws. Simeon finished with 14 points, Michael with 12.
The Bobcats' offense frustrated the Warriors early.
Whale Branch was wary of Bluffton's 3-point shooters and wasn't able to press as much as Lyles wanted. The Warriors held Bluffton's top shooter, C.J. Frazier, to seven points, but his teammates' shots dropped. Demetrius Smalls made three from long range. Guard B.J. Hill led Bluffton with 14 points.
Hazel said the Warriors just wanted a hand in the shooter's face and to rebound the misses. They cycled through their defenses, from zones to man, and used timeouts late to set up full-court pressure.
Down two, with the ball out of a timeout with 39 seconds left, Frazier missed a driving layup and lost the ball out of bounds while trying to get to the free-throw line. A later Bluffton 3-pointer to tie was off the mark before free throws decided the outcome.
Lyles was asked Saturday morning why he would play Bluffton so late in the season.
"Why not?" Lyles said he told them. "We got pushed to the max. That's what you want."
Whale Branch boys 62, Bluffton 57
Bluffton (11-6)-- B.J. Hill 14, Harlan Kendrick 9, Demetrius Smalls 9, C.J. Frazier 7, Anthony Smith 6, Jay Middleton 5, Jeremy Scott 3, Marquis Webber 2, Chance Murphy 1.
Whale Branch (14-2)-- Terrell Hazel 16, Simeon Middleton 14, Michael Middleton 12, Charles Jiles 7, Jay Abney 5, Damian Brown 4, Devonta Glover 2.
Whale Branch girls 53, Bluffton 48
Whale Branch coach Wilbert Bryant didn't wait until the end of the third quarter to talk to his team. He called a full timeout with less than a second remaining before the fourth quarter.
Bluffton was on a run, and the Warriors were out of sync.
"We lost focus," Bryant said. "We were playing like we were down."
Up by as many as 18 during the second half, Whale Branch withstood Bluffton's charge, which included a 14-0 run to end the third quarter and start the fourth. Bluffton guard Dynasty Mervin was splitting the Warriors' defense while the Warriors' offense went almost eight minutes without a field goal.
Whale Branch, which won the first meeting by almost 40 points, maintained control with the help of its size advantage. Jonae Riley and S'Nitra Mack each pulled down 16 rebounds.
Bluffton was forced to use guards on the block in its zone defense, and Mack feasted on putbacks and trips to the free-throw line.
The Warriors return to the Region 5-A schedule Tuesday at Estill. Saturday's game might serve as a wake-up call for the No. 6 team in Class 1-A, Bryant said.
Bluffton-- Dynasty Mervin 18, Diamon Smalls 15, Tiffany Banks 4, Rickii Alexander 3, Alexis Manuel 2, Monique Whitley 2, Autumn Card 2.
Whale Branch (14-3)-- S'Nitra Mack 18, Kemoni Jenkins 13, Sharrin Reed 8, Kenyada Moultrie 7, Jonae Riley 6.