Simeon Middleton and his brother, Michael, posed with family for glowing cellphone cameras as Whale Branch Early College High School fans filled the court at Battery Creek High School.
The Warriors boys basketball team received its biggest scare to this point in the Class 1-A playoffs, trailing Timmonsville into the fourth quarter before pulling out a 60-54 victory. Whale Branch will play Hemingway on Saturday at Florence Civic Center for the Lower State title, the Warriors' second consecutive trip.
And for a second time, the Middletons played their final game before the Lower State final. As Seventh-day Adventists, they don't play basketball during the daytime Saturdays, meaning they would also stay home if the Warriors reach the state championship game the following week.
Hence the cameras.
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Simeon Middleton, a senior, played his final high school game. He scored 14 points to lead the Warriors along with guard Justin Rhode.
"I gave it my all and that's all that matters, and we got the win," Middleton said. "I'm satisfied."
When it seemed all of the Warriors might be playing their final game of the season, Middleton and Rhode helped attack the basket against the Whirlwinds' zone.
Timmonsville led 36-31 late in the third quarter when Middleton began pushing the pace. He drove to find Denzel Daniel for a basket inside and split the line the next trip to earn two free throws. He added a 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter to put the Warriors up for the first time since the 7:09 mark of the third quarter.
The junior Michael Middleton helped lock down Timmonsville guard Tamaric Jones during the second half. Jones scored 13 of his 15 points during the first two quarters, with only two free throws after halftime.
"One time I wanted to switch him, and he was like, 'Coach, let me stay with (Jones),'" Whale Branch coach Linc Lyles said. "And I said 'You're right. I'm overruled.'"
Timmonsville forward Maleek Gee, at 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds, sucked up two defenders much of the night inside and helped the Whirlwinds control the flow of the game much of the night.
Gee admitted Timmonsville wanted another chance at Hemingway, which edged the Whirlwinds for the Region 7 title. They felt the matchup in nearby Florence was a lock.
Instead, the Warriors eliminated Timmonsville for the second consecutive year.
"Coach told us at the beginning of the season that we've got to win on the road, and we've got to make free throws," said Gee, whose team made 7 of its 17 attempts at the line. "That's one thing we did not finish tonight, is making free throws."
Lyles expected the Whirlwinds would dictate the tempo and force Whale Branch to play offense in the halfcourt. The Warriors added some new sets this week which included some baseline screens to show a look not already on video.
The wrinkles helped at least once during the late attack, when Simeon Middleton found Rhode underneath the basket for a quick lay-up.
The senior Middleton plans to play on at Washington Adventist University in Maryland. The brothers will push their teammates again in practice and wait for updates from the road.
"Wishing I could play, but it's not God's will," Middleton said.
Class 1-A boys basketball
Lower State semifinal, at Battery Creek High School
Whale Branch 60, Timmonsville 54
Timmonsville (16-8) -- Tamaric Jones 15, Reggie Brown 14, Tarik Jones 10, Malik Gee 10, Jalen Moore 3, Jamaal Stuckey 2
Whale Branch (22-4) -- Simeon Middleton 14, Justin Rhode 14, Michael Middleton 12, Denzel Daniel 11, Marlon Williams 3, Chavonne Simmons 2, Devonta Glover 2, Jay Abney 2