C.J. Frazier wanted Bluffton High School to send a message -- a warning shot, of sorts -- during the Region 7-AAA season.
And he knew, at some point, teams would receive it -- this year's Bobcats aren't quite the same team that finished in a last-place tie in region play a year ago.
The Bobcats made their point Wednesday night.
Frazier scored a game-high 21 points to lift Bluffton to a 64-60 overtime win against Lake Marion, a team the Region 7-AAA coaches picked to win the league before the season.
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"All we want everybody should know is we're going to come and play hard every night -- that's it," Frazier said. "We're not laying down for anybody. It's not like last year."
The Bobcats still took their share of punches Wednesday night -- but this time they fought back in their region opener.
Things looked bleak heading into the four-minute overtime when Lake Marion erased Bluffton's seven-point lead in the final three minutes of regulation using a full-court trap. And they looked even less favorable when Gators captain Raymond Hilliard drove for a layup to give Lake Marion a 60-59 lead with 47 seconds left in overtime.
But Bryson Bell was ready to answer. The Bobcats center sank a left-handed hook shot -- his go-to move -- with a man in his face to re-take the lead. Bell's shot proved to be the game-winner for the Bobcats, who added three free throws for the 64-60 final.
"My attitude was I had to score, and that's all that went through my head," Bell said. "... That's my power move, so I felt really good going to it. And when I knocked it down, it just felt great."
Bluffton trailed for most of the first three quarters, but it opened the fourth on a 16-8 run.
Eight players scored the Bobcats, an especially impressive statistic, considering only seven players got playing time in a loss last Friday night.
The Bobcats (7-5) will travel to Cane Bay on Friday in search of a 2-0 start in Region 7-AAA.
"We let people know we're here to win this region, and we can do it," Bobcats coach Brett Macy said. "If we bring it for 10 nights ... we'll put ourselves in position every night."
LAKE MARION (60) Barrian Jamison 13, Michael Williams 12, Raymond Hilliard 11, Samuel White 8, Marque Watson 8, Eric Stokes 6, Everette Mitchum 2.
BLUFFTON (64) C.J. Frazier 21, Demetrius Smalls 12, Brandon Rivers 8, Bryson Bell 7, Michael Grant 5, Harlan Kendrick 5, Anthony Smith 4, B.J. Hill 2.
Bluffton girls 56, Lake Marion 38
Shakeria Kitty scored nine points in the first nine minutes to lead the Bobcats to victory in their Region 7-AAA opener. She finished with 10 points.
Bluffton (9-5) struggled from the floor, but it turned the ball over just nine times in the game to prevent the Gators from making a run.
The Bobcats, meanwhile, made several runs of their own, especially at the end of quarters. They closed out the first quarter on an 8-2 run, the second quarter on an 8-3 run and the third on an 8-1 run.
"It's real good to get a win in the first region game of the year; that's the most important thing," Bobcats coach Lonnie Roberts said. "But we're still missing easy baskets, and eventually that could come back to bite us."
Jennifer Giles led Bluffton with 11 points. Eight players scored for the Bobcats.
Samantha Haney scored 16 in the loss for Lake Marion (6-7).
LAKE MARION (38) Samantha Haney 16, Jamike Hanton 9, Raven Scales 6, Sherie Asberry 4, Latifah Hilliard 2.
BLUFFTON (56) Jennifer Giles 11, Shakeria Kitty 10, Tibra Wheeler 9, Bre Brown 7, Shannon Gadson 7, Sheree Williams 6, Shawanda Stokes 4, Katelyn Grant 2.