A whiteboard at Whale Branch Early College High School once full of game keys and important numbers was wiped clean Saturday night, except two words with a box drawn around them.
Members of the boys basketball team can explain, forward Chavone Simmons said -- tipped passes, keeping rebounds alive for a teammate, winning a loose ball, getting out on the fast break. Whale Branch made all the hustle plays Saturday, fueled by the anticipation built on a weekend day with nothing to do but wait for the biggest game of the season.
Whale Branch, the top-ranked team in Class 1-A, delivered all the hustle plays at home, rendering a long-awaited showdown with No. 4 Allendale-Fairfax a snoozer by early in the second half en route to a 77-40 victory.
"That was big," Whale Branch senior Charles Jiles said. "That's what we've been working on all season."
After watching the Tigers twice, and from what he had heard, Warriors coach Linc Lyles wanted to keep Allendale-Fairfax from driving the lane and getting to the basket. Whale Branch stayed in its zone the entire game, switching from 2-3 to 3-2 briefly, but otherwise showing little variation. Change wasn't needed. The Tigers continued to throw up long-range shots until the game was well out of hand.
"The pressure got to them a little bit," Lyles said. "Once we got the lead, I wasn't going to get fancy."
The Warriors raced the floor, either forcing the issue with their press or turning long rebounds into more points. Five Warriors finished in double-figure scoring.
The performance seemed to justify the Warriors' place on the state level. Perhaps more importantly in the short term, they grabbed control of Region 5-A and handed the Tigers their first region loss.
The margin was a surprise. Whale Branch led by 16 at the half and started the third quarter on a 9-0 run to blow the game open.
Allendale-Fairfax stayed in the visitor's locker room long after the gym and hallways had cleared out, coach Coby Brandyburg trying to place the game in perspective. He credited Lyles for keeping the Tigers from what they wanted to do.
"They played with passion, intensity," Brandyburg said. "They outplayed us tonight.'
Whale Branch 77, Allendale-Fairfax 40
Allendale-Fairfax (10-5, 3-1 Region 5-A)-- Jahnari Devoe 12, Shawn Riley 10, Solomon McCormick 9, Jamel McMillan 5, Mike Taylor 4, Trevin Mole 2.
Whale Branch (14-2, 4-0)-- Denzel Daniel 14, Simeon Middleton 14, Dee Delaney 13, Charles Jiles 12, Michael Middleton 10, Jay Abney 7, Terrell Hazel 2, Darian Brown 2, Jovelle Coakley 2, Chavone Simmons 1.
Whale Branch girls 51, Allendale-Fairfax 29
The Whale Branch girls basketball team has worked on its focus, trying to stay in the moment and address the task at hand.
A late afternoon weekend game tested their sharpness, especially with a big matchup looming Tuesday. But the Warriors shook off some early sluggishness to remain undefeated in Region 5-A.
No. 7 Whale Branch travels to No. 5 Denmark-Olar on Tuesday. Warriors coach Wilbert Bryant tried to keep his team focused on the Tigers, but that might have been wishful thinking. He told them that to defeat a top-tier team they would need to play consistently for four quarters.
"We're going to have to play Warrior basketball," Bryant said. "I didn't want them looking ahead."
Allendale-Fairfax graduated eight seniors from last year's 11-player roster. First-year coach Perry Smalls is trying to navigate the region schedule with a roster that includes three eighth-graders.
Allendale-Fairfax (4-9, 0-3 Region 5-A)-- Tamara DeLoach 8, Alexander Gibbs 6, Dinesha Rollins 7, Parrish Lee 3, Shajana Devoe 2, Amber Neblett 2.
Whale Branch (12-3, 3-0)-- Kemoni Jenkins 15, S'Nitra Mack 12, Jonae Riley 8, Sharrin Reed 7, Kenyada Moultrie 6, Dana Chapel 4.