Beaufort High School's boys open the Class 4-A basketball playoffs Wednesday, but the preparation began intensely the previous game, in the Eagles' regular-season finale against Colleton County.
Despite the Cougars' poor region record and Beaufort High's celebration of the team's senior class, coach Bruce Beasley wanted focus. And his team delivered, wrapping up the No. 1 seed from Region 8-AAAA and a 6:30 p.m. home game Wednesday against North Augusta to open the playoffs.
"We came in there with the mind-set that we wanted to be efficient in all facets of the game -- especially defensively and rebounding-wise," Beasley said. "We place a lot of emphasis on that. And that will be one of the determining factors in the outcome of the playoffs."
Beaufort High enters the playoff as region champion for the first time since 2006. The honor gives the Eagles home-court advantage to open the playoffs. But Beasley said his team should be as comfortable in a road environment as it is at Beaufort High.
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This year's crop of seniors has set high expectations for the Eagles. But they need to realize the importance of each game, Beasley said.
"Win or go home," he said. "That will be the message. Hopefully, we can put everything together and play at the zenith of our game."
Elsewhere, Bluffton High School, coming off the best region finish in school history, will host Marlboro County tonight at 7 -- it's just the second home playoff game in program history.
The Bobcats finished sixth in the conference a year ago but took second this year with an improvement of five region wins. That improvement comes despite a relative lack of experience. Brandon Rivers is the team's only senior.
"It's a great thing -- they go from the doghouse to the best finish this school has ever had," coach Brett Macy said. "Our guys should be proud, because not a lot of people picked this to happen."
Battery Creek coach Antoine Youmans also has been pleased with his team's turnaround. With the Dolphins' record at 4-8 during the winter break, Youmans challenged his team to go 8-4 the rest of the way and finish .500 for the regular season.
The Dolphins just missed their mark, dropping their final game to finish the regular season 11-13. But Youmans said several players have improved their play of late and helped the Dolphins to a winning record in Region 7-AAA.
Youmans said guard Michael Robinson should be out for a third game with a twisted ankle but would ready Friday. He said he hasn't seen Hartsville play, but learned through scouting reports the team boasts a solid point guard and likes to run the floor.
"They're more than beatable," Youmans said. "But they're good, so we got to be ready when we go down there."
Ridgeland, the No. 4 seed from Region 5-A, travels today to face Burke, which won the Region 6-A title. The Jaguars dropped four of their final five games to end the regular season. They played a tournament at Burke during the season but did not face the host squad.
Class 4-A girls: Beaufort High at Aiken, 6 p.m.
Class 3-A boys: Marlboro County at Bluffton, 7 p.m.; Battery Creek at Hartsville, 7 p.m.
Class 1-A girls: Hardeeville at Burke, 6:30 p.m.
Class 1-A boys: Ridgeland at Burke, 8 p.m.
Class 4-A boys: North Augusta at Beaufort High, 6:30 p.m.