D.J. Dobson released the built-up emotion Thursday, turning near the baseline to roar towards the opposite end of the court.
The Bluffton High School senior's third-quarter dunk pulled the anxious students screaming onto the floor. At some point during the display, the Bobcats received a technical foul.
The scene had the feel of the postseason, and it was a feeling Bluffton worked to protect Thursday, defeating rival Beaufort High School, 51-50, on B.J. Hill's free throw with 7.8 seconds remaining. Bluffton earned the No. 2 seed in Region 8-AAAA and will play host to a first-round game when the postseason begins next week.
"We knew what was on the table," Dobson said.
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The Bobcats lost a high-energy game at Beaufort High on Jan. 28 and were in danger of falling as far as the fourth seed with a loss on Thursday. Instead, it is the Eagles who await either a third or fourth seed and a road game to start the postseason, pending the outcome of the Friday's Summerville-Fort Dorchester game. A Summerville victory would give Beaufort High the No. 3 seed, Eagles coach Bruce Beasley said.
Beaufort High's night Thursday ended with a desperation 3-point attempt from the right corner. Bluffton spoiled a 20-point effort by Adonis Grant by largely limiting his supporting cast.
The Eagles, already without leading scorer Kendrick Colvin to a knee injury, had to sit post player Otis McClain with foul trouble midway through the third quarter.
Bluffton coach Brett Macy said he emphasized closing down the driving lanes and forcing jump shots farther out from the basket. He told the Bobcats they would be in better position to rebound a longer shot than mixing it up with Beaufort High around the basket.
"We didn't do a perfect job of it, because Adonis Grant is a heck of a basketball player," Macy said. "But we did a pretty good job of it."
Bluffton guards were able to attack the basket the final minute. After Bluffton's Adriel Willis secured an offensive rebound and the Bobcats called timeout with under 20 seconds to play, Macy told the Bobcats to spread the floor and look for a lane.
Hill took it, missing the front end before delivering the winning point on a night the senior was recognized.
"We were into it," said Willis, also a senior. "We knew it was a big game."
Bluffton boys 51, Beaufort High 50
Beaufort High (18-5, 6-4 Region 8-AAAA) -- Adonis Grant 20, Jawan Mack 7, Lamont Fripp 4, Michael Dickson 4, Carlton Johnson 3, Devin Stedman 3, Daryl Owens 3, Kayden Smalls 3
Bluffton High (14-6, 7-3) -- D.J. Dobson 18, Adriel Willis 13, Chance Murphy 6, B.J. Hill 5, Jae Middleton 3, Lorenz Taylor 3, Laquan Washington 3,
Bluffton girls 45, Beaufort High 37
Bluffton wasn't going to allow a tough season to end poorly at home.
Down three entering the fourth quarter, the Bobcats ran off a 15-0 stretch. They held Beaufort High to only one field goal in the final eight minutes.
"You finally get it together, and it's a little too late, because now the season is over," said Bobcats coach Lonnie Roberts, whose team finished 2-8 in Region 8-AAAA. "That's what makes it really difficult. But again, you went out on a real positive note."
Senior Dynasty Mervin led the Bobcats with 10 points and helped ignite the fourth-quarter run with a jump shot and two free throws.
Beaufort High was tough to put away as it tried for its only region win in the final game of the season. The Eagles scored the last six points of the first half to lead by a point and carried a three-point edge into the final quarter.
But Bluffton's man defense created problems, and Jasmine Linnen's basket was the best Beaufort High could manage the final quarter.
Roberts called the season a learning experience for his younger players and said he hoped they were prepared to work during the summer.
Beaufort High (4-19, 0-10 Region 8-AAAA) -- Kaitlyn Hamilton 9, Amber Britton 8, Regina Bolden 6, Breanna Heyward 6, Jasmine Wallace 2, Mattie Hibbs 2, Jasmine Linnen 2, Aaliyah Smalls 2
Bluffton (9-14, 2-8) -- Dynasty Mervin 10, Baylor Davis 9, Evian Mitchell 7, Tatyana Fripp 7, Richii Alexander 4, Autumn Card 4, Johnnie Gaston 2, Diamon Smalls 2