Play within your capability. Beat the press early in the game. Score with efficiency.
Talk to some of the coaches who have faced the Whale Branch Early College High School boys basketball team this season, and some common themes emerge.
The Warriors are deep. They enjoy quality practices with enough guys to push each other for playing time.
And they are tough to beat.
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We talked to a few coaches this week to share their thoughts on what C.A. Johnson will face Saturday against coach Linc Lyles and the Warriors in the Class 1-A state basketball championship at Colonial Life Arena.
Allendale-Fairfax coach Coby Brandyburg (L 83-53 at home, L 56-42 at Whale Branch)
"He throws a lot of different combinations of players in. He gives you a lot of different looks defensively. We've played them since the school has been open. One thing in our preparation -- and I think we do this against anybody -- I think we don't want to adjust because of what the other team is doing. So we kind of still try to do what we do best. I think that's what a lot of times gives teams fits with them, is they try to adjust to what Whale Branch is doing. A lot of times that creates trouble, because now you're putting kids in situations that they're not comfortable and not used to being in. A lot of times we just try to do what we do. If they change what they're doing, that's fine. We just try to put our kids in positions where they're comfortable at all times. I applaud him for it, because that's a great coaching strategy. A lot of kids at this level aren't that comfortable having to make decisions on the fly, so it does play a part. It plays into their hands and what they're trying to accomplish."
Bluffton coach Brett Macy (W 67-57 at Whale Branch, L 54-53 at home)
"You've got to be able to move the ball quickly against their halfcourt defense. Against us, they like to do their tandem 2-3 trap. They trap those wings. We did a couple things a little bit differently -- moved the wings into the corner so they had a little bit further to go to trap. And you've got to have guys who can make shots from the corner, because those are where your shots are going to be if you put your wings down there. You can't hold the ball on the wing or the high post. If you catch the ball in the high post against that kind of trapping 2-3 they have, you're dead to rights. Those top guards are coming down and bothering that guy. Everything has to be crisp. No holding the ball. You can't put the ball on the floor from the high post usually. You've got to crash the glass. That's kind of how we had success against them. Be patient against the press. They don't press us too much. But again, our familiarity with them, they don't press as much due to that. But if they do press, you have to be patient and move through that press with the pass and not the dribble. If you try to break any press -- but especially their press -- with the dribble, you're going to be in trouble.
Cane Bay coach Calvin Craft (W 70-68 at Battery Creek Thanksgiving tournament)
"It just seemed like they had nine or 10 of the same dude to roll at you. I mean nobody that really is like 'that guy is a real game-changer,' but ... he just rolled five at a time at us, and luckily it was the beginning of the year, and I had a guard play really, really well, and we were able to come back and beat them. The depth that they have is uncommon for a 1-A team. They're not real big, which helped, because my team is not big. That gave us a chance. At that level they're on, you don't run into a lot of teams with a lot of size. They just wear you down when you can just roll guys out without a lot of drop-off. I'm sure that's helped them improve a ton during the year, because you have quality in practice to go against every single day -- that's one of the biggest advantages of having depth. I'm looking back at the scorebook -- they had probably 12 guys score in that game against us, and it was a tight game. It wasn't one of those deals where you are putting guys in at the end because the game is out of hand, kind of thing. That's the biggest thing about them. And they're experienced. They made it to the championship game last year. They've got some guys back off that team. I'm sure that's helped as well."
Hilton Head Island High School coach Ken Updike (L 70-37 at home, L 63-22 at Whale Branch)
"When you go through your scouting report, you try to prepare for them like you would any other team -- you try to identify who is going to score and how are they going to score to determine how you're going to defend and possibly personnel -- who are you going to put on them to defend them? And with Whale Branch, especially this year, you just can't identify who is going to be the leading scorer every night. You try to determine 'all right, this kid has been their leading scorer all year long and scores the majority of their points, this is how we're going to guard him; we're going to make somebody else beat us.' But you can't necessarily do that with Whale Branch, because they've got so many guys who can score and score in different ways. They've got guys who can shoot the ball beyond the arc. They've got guys who can score inside. That's probably the most difficult part in trying to prepare for them."
Follow reporter Stephen Fastenau at twitter.com/IPBG_Stephen.
S.C. High School League Class 1-A boys basketball championship
Who: Whale Branch (23-4) vs. C.A. Johnson (17-9)
Where: Colonial Life Arena; 801 Lincoln St., Columbia, SC 29201
When: 12:30 p.m. Saturday
Details: Tickets are $10. Watch online at http://www.nfhsnetwork.com/channels/south-carolina ($9.95 day pass required).