Hilton Head Island High School boys basketball coach Ken Updike pulled his team together Friday night for a story.
It was only a year ago when the Seahawks rebounded from a 1-4 start in Region 8-AAA to finish at 5-5, earning them a trip to the playoffs. The same could be accomplished this time, he said, despite the 47-38 loss they suffered earlier in the evening to James Island that dropped them to 0-2.
The only problem was just three of his Seahawks could empathize. The rest are a new crop of young players still trying to find their way in high school basketball.
"We've got to push the other guys in practice," said sophomore Troy Clifford, seemingly the elder statesman of the group. "Guard them a little extra hard and make them better, too."
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Hilton Head High continues to navigate through a trying 2013-14 campaign, which continued against the Trojans in the home region opener. The Seahawks (3-13) finally have point guard Jacob Coltrane back from a shoulder injury and welcomed Wade Hampton transfer Patrick Riley to the floor for the first time, too. Riley scored six points and notched four rebounds in his first action, despite being subbed in and out as he got his game legs back.
"It was tough," he said of his absence. "But I just had to sit back and realize that it's still my team and I've got to support them any way I can."
But the growing pains persist. Guard Aaron Frazier wasn't on the bench, a situation Updike declined to comment on, and the Seahawks struggled in a turnover-prone first-half before rallying over the final two periods.
"The other ones, when you talk about the importance of region, they haven't experienced it yet," he said. "It's a different animal. You either win or you don't get to go to the playoffs."
Hilton Head High trailed most of the night, as the Trojans built a comfortable second-quarter lead with stifling pressure and some sharp shooting from behind the arc. But the Seahawks fought back over the final minutes and at one point pulled within six when Coltrane found Riley on a backdoor cut.
But the Trojans escaped when the Seahawks failed to complete the rally. Finishing remains part of the gradual growing process the team works on each time out.
"Ken does a great job with these guys," James Island coach Stan Wilkins said. "I really admire him. He's a very good coach."
The Seahawks believe they are close to turning the corner. They are as healthy as they have been all season and trend in the right direction with each game, Updike said.
But it isn't helping with their restlessness.
"We're just anxious," said Clifford, who finished with a game-high 11 points. "We're anxious to get that win."
James Island boys 47, Hilton Head High 38
James Island (8-7, 2-0 Region 8-AAA) -- Brady Schuck 9, James Hamilton 8, Jordan McDaniel 7, Maurice Hardimon 6, Noah Munn 4, Ryan Braswell 4, Tre'von Grant 4, Lyles Davis 3, Devontre Hamilton 2
Hilton Head High (3-13, 0-2) -- Troy Clifford 11, Jacob Coltrane 7, Patrick Riley 6, Tate Steinour 4, Malik Singleton 3, Matt MacDonnell 3, Bryce Singleton 2, Jestin Morrow 2
Hilton Head High girls 47, James Island 38
Hilton Head High looked like a team ready to give top-ranked Orangeburg-Wilkinson fits next week during Friday night's first-half against James Island.
The same could not be said for the second half.
The Seahawks raced out to a 27-5 halftime advantage against the outmanned Trojans and looked every bit the team earning a top-10 ranking in this week's coaches poll. But the Trojans ended the game on a 21-7 run and at one point pulled within eight before falling short.
"I thought the first half was terrific," coach Dave Greenberg said. "We played both ends of the court as well as we could play."
"(In the second half), I don't know if we just got caught up with ourselves or what," he added.
Tiffany Banks led the charge with 11 points and seven steals while starting in place of Savannah Reier, who missed her third straight game with a bone bruise. Americal Jenkins was her usual force down low, adding 16 points and 16 rebounds. Lauryn Bush chipped in 13 points as the Seahawks did enough to stave off the ferocious Trojans comeback down the stretch.
"We played hard," Greenberg said. "(James Island) just started playing better, but we played as though we were never prepared for what they did. The kids should have known how to handle it better, I thought."
James Island (2-11, 0-2 Region 8-AAA) -- Makyla Stlaney 18, Sara Wright 5, Sierra Williams 4, Mackenzie Tillman 3, Sey Williams 3, Brittany Maull 2, Semea Chavis 2, Amya Chavis 1
Hilton Head High (11-5, 2-0) -- Americal Jenkins 16, Lauryn Bush 13, Tiffany Banks 11, Rachel Friend 5, Da'Nesha Miller 2