All the reports Bluffton High School's boys received before Friday were the same: Keep Battery Creek out of the lane and you'll win.
The Bobcats listened, but didn't know what the task involved until they were down big to the Dolphins at halftime. Bluffton coach Brett Macy's team had practiced the 2-3 zone. But he had hesitated to use it before Friday. He thought sitting in the zone would make his players sluggish.
But they had to do something. Battery Creek lit up the scoreboard for a halftime total that could have passed for a final.
In its zone defense to start the second half, Bluffton clogged the middle, forced more jump shots and ran in transition. The result was a come-from-behind, 82-74 Bobcats victory and first place in Region 7-AAA.
"We kept our hands up and stayed active," Bluffton guard Anthony Smith said. "It kept them out of the lane. That's all they scored off of all night was getting in the lane."
Bluffton trailed by 14 at halftime. Battery Creek, which had led by as many as 16 during the first half, was dominating inside with Terrell McWilliams and Arnold Mahafee. But the Bobcats said they were unfazed, that the first two quarters just showed them everyone else had been correct.
The second-half comeback was spurred by a 17-0 run during the third quarter. By the time Battery Creek called its first timeout to try to halt the momentum, the Bobcats led by one.
Bluffton big man Bryson Bell, who combined with C.J. Frazier to score 46 points, was imposing in the middle of the zone. He blocked shots on defense, and on the other end was in position to accept passes in transition.
"I wasn't really feeling it in the first half," Bell said. "When we were breaking the press and the guards were looking for me, that built confidence."
Assistant coaches tried to quell the Bobcats' high after the game, reminding Bell and others that much of the region schedule remained. But Friday's win was big, Macy said. And the Bobcats are in position to compete for the region title.
"Like I said, we'll know what we're playing for after this week, whether we're playing for a playoff berth or a region championship," Macy said. "We're in first right now. So we're playing for a region title."
Battery Creek (8-11, 2-2 Region 7-AAA)-- Terrell McWilliams 22, Brent Johnson 16, Justice Oliver 12, BJ Garvin 8, Arnold Mahafee 8, Michael Robinson 3, Leroy Jennette 3, Rodney Cooper 2
Bluffton (9-7, 3-1 Region 7-AAA)-- Bryson Bell 23, C.J. Frazier 23, Brandon Rivers 16, Anthony Smith 10, Demetrius Smalls 4, Michael Grant 4, Harlan Kendrick 2
Bluffton girls 65, Battery Creek 49
Bluffton girls basketball coach Lonnie Roberts knows what Jennifer Giles is capable of when she's on.
The guard came off the bench Friday to score a game-high 21 points and help the Bobcats remain unbeaten in Region 7-AAA. Bluffton travels to Hilton Head High on Tuesday for a matchup of region unbeatens.
"You know you're going to get offense," Roberts said of Giles. "We have just multiple weapons. When we get 'on' and put the ball in the basket, there's no telling what we're going to put up."
Battery Creek, which fell to 1-3 in region play, led early before the Bobcats chipped away. Roberts said he knew the Dolphins' standouts from reports of previous games. Three Battery Creek players reached double figures Friday, but only five made the scoring column.
Roberts' only point of contention was with his team's free-throw shooting. He counted 18 missed free throws -- less than 50 percent from the line.
"That's leaving a lot of points," he said. "That's tough. But right now, we'll take the win."
Battery Creek (7-10, 1-3 Region 7-AAA)-- Justice Hill 17, Rashidah Jones 15, Katrece Daniels 12, Nyeeka Simmons 2, Jasmine Wallace 2, Deija Cannon 1
Bluffton (12-5, 4-0 Region 7-AAA)-- Jennifer Giles 21, Tibra Wheeler 13, Shannon Gadson 6, Sheree Williams 6, Katelyn Grant 6, Shakeria Kitty 6, Toniqua Wynn 2, Monique Bryant 2, Alex Bailey 2, Shawanda Stokes 1