Bragging rights are at stake any time Bluffton High School and Hilton Head High meet on the basketball court. But for the first time in three-plus seasons, its impact will be much greater than that.
The first-place Bobcats will travel to Hilton Head High on Tuesday night in a boys matchup that will go a long way toward determining playoff seeding, and perhaps eventually the Region 7-AAA champion.
Bluffton moved into a first-place tie with Lake Marion -- which it defeated two weeks ago -- with a come-from-behind victory against Battery Creek on Friday night. The Seahawks earned their first region win of the year the same night against Berkeley -- a victory coach Ken Updike said brings his team back into the playoff race.
The two rivals present an intriguing matchup. The Bobcats (9-7) are a team that prefers to push the ball up the floor to give their bevy of 3-point shooters better looks in the open court. The strategy has proved successful in region play, and they have scored at least 53 points in each contest.
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The Seahawks (8-10), on the other hand, rely on tough man-to-man defense to control the tempo of the game.
"It comes down to which team can set the pace," Updike said after Friday's win. "We're going to have to slow them down -- that's no secret."
CLFFORD, EAGLES STAYING BUSY
Beaufort High School football coach Mark Clifford laughs at a question common this time of year.
So, you taking it easy?
"Shoot, it's one of the toughest and most frustrating parts of the year," Clifford says.
In the absence of blue-chip recruits as in years past, the Eagles might not have anyone commit on National Signing Day this year, Clifford said. But he and his staff are working to find a place for those seniors who want to play college football.
Clifford said athlete Beau Brown has heard from Pikeville College, among others, Running back Alex Simmons has interest from Brevard. Defensive backs Jalin Mack and Calvin Atkins are headed to Coastal Carolina, where they will try to walk on, Clifford said.
There are others. DVDs are being mailed. Contacts are being milked.
Even then, there will be a lot of questions and dead ends until after signing day, when teams take stock of what they land and go back to their boards.
"Kids are getting a little frustrated; I'm getting a little frustrated," Clifford said. "But we're going to keep working."
LAYMAN CHOOSES ROBERT MORRIS
Hilton Head Prep senior Matt Layman gave a verbal commitment this week to play football at Robert Morris University next season.
Layman made an official visit to the Pittsburgh school the previous weekend, and he said he came away feeling as though it was a perfect fit. He plans to sign a National Letter of Intent on Feb. 2, which is the first day high school football players can sign.
The Colonials compete in the Northeast Conference and the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision. They went 8-3 overall this season, including a 7-1 conference mark, and lost in the first round of the FCS playoffs.
Layman, who passed for 3,538 yards with 34 touchdowns and eight interceptions in his senior year, also considered a scholarship offer from Davidson College, as well as walk-on opportunities at several schools in South Carolina and Virginia.
WIDE-OPEN REGION RACES IN SCISAA
In one week's time, Hilton Head Prep's girls basketball team went from the top-ranked team in SCISAA Class 3-A to the No. 3 in Region 3-AAA. That's how competitive the Dolphins' region is this season, and with back-to-back region losses to Northwood Academy and Pinewood Prep, the Dolphins are two games back of the Chargers and Panthers, who play one another Tuesday night.
"I'll tell you what, it could be anyone's region to win," Pinewood Prep coach Nancy Beatty said after her team's 55-49 win at Hilton Head Prep on Friday. "I told the girls this is probably one of three times we'll see Hilton Head Prep. We've got them in the region again, and there's a good chance we'll see them in the state tournament, too."
The boys race is just as tight, with the top four teams separated by one game. Porter-Gaud leads the way at 3-1 in region play, with Pinewood Prep (2-1), Hilton Head Prep (2-2) and Hilton Head Christian (2-2) within striking distance.
RIVALS TO SQUARE OFF IN FACULTY GAME
Faculty members from Hilton Head Prep and Hilton Head Christian will play a charity basketball game at 7 p.m. Saturday at Prep's Fraser Field House, with proceeds from the event going to the American Cancer Society.
Admission to the event is free, but the schools will be in competition to see which can gather the most donations at the door.
HHCA SHOOTERS COMPETE IN SWANSEA
Eight shooters from Hilton Head Christian Academy competed in the SCISAA clay shooting event Jan. 15 at Live Oak Sporting Club in Swansea.
Hilton Head Christian's varsity squad placed 12th. Drew Davis led the way with a score of 83, followed by Justin Remegi with 69 and Ryan Cash with 67.
The junior varsity team of Hunter Greenwell (70), Alex Cooler (66) and Kerry Davis (48) took 11th. Davis finished third among junior varsity girls. First-year junior varsity shooters Matt Crowe (39) and Shaun Poole (38) also competed.
A total of 295 shooters competed.