Coach Jerry Faulkner and his Hilton Head Prep boys basketball team walked a tightrope on Senior Night on Friday night against Northwood Academy.
Ultimately, the Dolphins fell.
Two of Hilton Head Prep's three seniors fouled out late, and the Dolphins couldn't hold off the Chargers, losing 65-61 in a game that may have been crucial to the team's playoff chances.
"We never got in the 1-and-1, and two of our guys fouled out," Faulkner said. "We have limited depth. Those guys played hard and extremely well. And we missed them. That's two of our three seniors. And those three seniors are the leaders of this basketball team."
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By the end of the first quarter, seniors Randy Young and J.T. Marbut and junior Noah Sulek each had two fouls. Lacking depth, Faulkner had no choice but to keep his best players on the floor.
While Hilton Head Prep continued to pick up fouls, it didn't stop them from taking control of the game. The Dolphins' 9-0 run to open the second quarter gave them a lead they would hold until there was just over a minute remaining.
The Dolphins' third senior, John Eck, scored 19 to reach his average, while Sulek had 15 and Brennan Mikell had 12. Young's 10 included two big 3-pointers.
But the athletic Chargers fought their way back, moving to within one with 1:38 left thanks to two Douglas Dwight 3s. They tied the game when Young picked up his fifth foul on a loose ball and Micah Loudin hit one of two free throws.
Six seconds later, after a turnover, Marbut picked up his fifth and Dwight hit both free throws, giving Northwood the lead for good.
"We were just hanging on," Faulkner said. "We made a couple of turnovers down the stretch that certainly hurt us, and they hit the big shots."
Faulkner said he didn't regret leaning on his seniors.
"Those guys have been consistent, they've been people that you can depend on," Faulkner said. "They've been everything that you'd want on your team. I'm extremely proud of them. "
He said the Dolphins, thanks in part to big wins over region leaders Porter-Gaud and Laurence Manning, still has a shot at the playoffs.
"A win tonight would have cinched it, but that's over and done with."
Northwood Academy boys 65, Hilton Head Prep 61
Northwood Academy (19-7, 6-3 SCISAA Region 3-AAA) -- Douglas Dwight 21, Daquan Acrum 14, Tayvaughn Major 12, Darret Drayton 8, Charles Johnson 5, Bernard Brown 3, Micah Loudin 2.
Hilton Head Prep (12-7, 3-7) -- John Eck 19, Noah Sulek 15, Brennan Mikell 13, Randy Young 10, J.T. Marbut 2, John Larson 2.
Northwood Academy girls 83, Hilton Head Prep 16
Hilton Head Prep coach Dan Sheehan said the Dolphins knew coming in to this season that the competition would be tough, but losses like Friday's are rough.
But Sheehan was proud of the Dolphins' effort.
"They worked really hard," Sheehan said. "They didn't get discouraged in the second half against, clearly, one of the better teams in the state. They just keep working hard to get better."
Northwood senior Amber Campbell scored her 4,000th career point on a free throw in the second quarter. Campbell has started for Northwood since eighth grade.
Campbell, who will be a teammate of Prep grad Jill Brunori next season at Wake Forest, is averaging 32 points a game and shoots 71 percent from the field.
"She's just got a phenomenal work ethic," Singleton said, "and I can't say enough about her."
Northwood Academy (25-2, 10-0) -- Amber Campbell 25, Katelyn Powell 14, Erika Martin 14, Antoinette Davis 9, Jamie Andrews 5, Caliyah Sumter 5, Haliyah Sumter 4, Dee Heath 4, T'Naeya Stackhouse 2, Brittany Cook 1.
Hilton Head Prep (3-17, 0-10) -- Foster Willey 6, Maddie McDowell 4, Kendall Smith 4, Catherine Sheehan 2.