High School Sports

Bobcats, Seahawks share Region 7-AAA girls title

Tibra Wheeler could have accepted that maybe it just wasn't her night.

For nearly three quarters, every shot she took seemed to clank off the iron. A few weren't even that close. It was enough to make her wonder if maybe Bluffton High School's hopes of defeating rival Hilton Head High just weren't meant to be.

And then one shot quickly changed that.

Wheeler swished a 3-pointer to break a tie late in the third quarter and give Bluffton the lead for good. The Bobcats pulled away late for a 39-33 win against the visiting Seahawks on Friday night.

The teams split the Region 7-AAA championship, but Hilton Head High won the tiebreaker and earned the No. 1 seed heading into the Class 3-A playoffs, which begin Monday. Bluffton is the region's second seed and will also host a playoff game Monday.

The region title -- or at least a share of it -- is the first in Bluffton history and the third in the Seahawks' history.

"I think with a region championship on the line, it's hard to focus as if it's just a regular-season game," Wheeler said. "But at some point, you have to forget about the misses and just focus on the rim. Once I did that, my shot felt really good."

Wheeler was the hot hand for the Bobcats down the stretch, scoring nine points in the final nine minutes. She finished with a team-high 13, and Sheree Williams added 10.

Bluffton never trailed in the fourth quarter, though the Bobcats never led by more than five until adding a free throw for the six-point final margin.

"I was definitely nervous, because we were up at Battery Creek (on Tuesday) and we gave it back," Wheeler said. "So those last four minutes, we went as hard as we did to start the game."

Hilton Head High turned the ball over 11 times in the first eight minutes and 21 times in the game.

For the second straight meeting, Bluffton focused its defense on Seahawks leading scorer Margo Dill. Using a box-and-one defense for most of the first half, Bluffton held Dill to eight points in the game. Sabrina Drammis led the team with 13.

"They made us play at a faster pace than we should've, and we kind of panicked," Seahawks coach Dave Greenberg said. "We almost acted like we were the ones that had to win, and they were the ones that had to win."

HILTON HEAD HIGH (21-3, 8-2 Region 7-AAA) Sabrina Drammis 13, Margo Dill 8, Jamacia King 4, Lauryn Bush 4, Tashawna Washington 2, Sara Manesiotis 2.

BLUFFTON (17-7, 8-2) Tibra Wheeler 13, Sheree Williams 10, Jennifer Giles 5, Bre Brown 4, Katelyn Grant 3, Shakeria Kitty 2, Toniqua Wynn 2.

Bluffton boys 48, Hilton Head High 45

Demetrius Smalls saw the clock just in time.

With the time ticking toward the third-quarter buzzer, Smalls heaved a 3-pointer that fell through the net to tie the game. The Bobcats used the momentum in the fourth quarter to sweep the season series with Hilton Head High.

With the win, coupled with Battery Creek's loss at region winner Lake Marion, the Bobcats take the No. 2 seed into next week's Class 3-A playoffs. The Seahawks did not qualify for the playoffs.

Smalls finished with 12 points on four 3-pointers Friday night, including the buzzer-beater that changed the game.

"I think that was the turning point," Bobcats coach Brett Macy said. "It got the crowd into it, and then our defense woke up. Huge shot."

Though it didn't help the Bobcats find an answer for Seahawks center Michael Julian.

Julian scored 17 points in the game -- 13 in the second half -- and matched Bluffton basket-for-basket in the fourth quarter, as the teams exchanged the lead five times.

Trailing by one with less than a minute to play, the Seahawks attempted to feed Julian in the post yet again, but Harlan Kendrick stole the pass. C.J. Frazier added two free throws for the 48-45 final.

"I think he took a big step forward tonight," Seahawks coach Ken Updike said of Julian. "You saw that when he plays with confidence, he's tough to guard."

HILTON HEAD HIGH (8-16, 1-9) Michael Julian 17, T.J. Clay 9, Desmond Bush 7, Will McCarty 6, Jacob Coltrane 3, Quintin Smalls 3.

BLUFFTON (12-10, 6-4) Demetrius Smalls 12, Brandon Rivers 10, C.J. Frazier 8, Michael Grant 8, Bryson Bell 5, Anthony Smith 2, B.J. Hill 2, Harlan Kendrick 1.

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