COLUMBIA -- Dee Delaney leaned forward and rested his hands on his knees.
The middle of the fourth quarter, the Whale Branch Early College High School senior showed signs he and his teammates, for one of the few times this season, were tired. Lewisville, as it has done to teams all season, worked the Warriors with its defensive pressure until they broke.
The Lions' second-half burst carried them to a 64-54 victory in the Class 1-A boys basketball championship at Colonial Life Arena in Columbia. Whale Branch, in its third year, was trying to win the first boys basketball state title for Beaufort County since 1945, according to S.C. High School League records.
"For the first time all year, maybe the fatigue did set in," Whale Branch coach Linc Lyles said.
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Lewisville disrupted what Whale Branch succeeded with much of the season.
Lions coach Larry Davis, a former prep star at Denmark-Olar who played for South Carolina, attacked the Warriors' secondary ballhandlers, forcing them into traps, keeping the ball from point guard Terrell Hazel while remaining wary of Delaney's ability to get to the basket.
After trailing by five at the half, Lewisville executed its pressure during the third quarter, outscoring the Warriors 26-9 before Whale Branch could adjust.
"We were getting to those spots, those obvious spots we knew they had to go to when they go under pressure," said Davis, who clutched his team's trophy in the tunnel after the game. "We were a step late in the first half getting there."
Said Lyles: "If you start the game like that, maybe we have time to adjust. We knew it was coming, we knew the traps were coming. We tried to trap back. We just didn't get to the spots and rotate like we needed to do."
The Lions' defense created easy layups, and when Whale Branch tried to work back into the game, those easy baskets held off the Warriors. Lewisville shot 63 percent the final two quarters.
Delaney finished with 12 points his final high school game. Freshman Justin Rhode also had 12 for Whale Branch.
Lewisville senior Shakale Worthy came off the bench to lead the Lions with 17 points.
Lions guard Mardarius Bailey was responsible for much of his team's blitz, finishing with six steals and 14 points.
"I told those boys at halftime, it wasn't nothing we were down by five," Bailey said. "Basketball is a game of spurts. They had one the first half, and we came back the second half and had one."
A 9-0 run during the first half helped Whale Branch match its largest lead, seven points, which it held at several points during the second quarter. The shots and free throws were falling.
When the pressure turned up and the fatigue set in, the open looks and free throws slipped. Whale Branch made 9 of 14 free throws during the first half and 2 of 10 during the final two quarters. The Warriors made 2 of 10 3-point attempts during the second half.
Lyles, as he has done all season, tried to head off the fatigue with frequent substitutions. The Whale Branch bench was again limited without brothers Simeon and Michael Middleton, Seventh-Day Adventists who missed the Lower State final and state championship for observance of the Sabbath.
The Warriors still had plenty of depth, but foul trouble limited Delaney and the missed shots doomed their chances.
Whale Branch shot 35 percent during the second half.
"You can disrupt chemistry," Lyles said. "We practice it so much by bringing fresh bodies in, but it's predicated on finish plays. You saw us missing free throws, and you saw us missing stick-backs around the basket. And those are usually plays that we make."
Lewisville 64, Whale Branch 54
Whale Branch (24-4)-- Dee Delaney 12, Justin Rhode 12, Terrell Hazel 11, Jay Abney 7, Denzel Daniel 6, Charles Jiles 2, Chavone Simmons 2, NyQuan G-Smith 2.
Lewisville (21-7)-- Shakale Worthy 17, Mardarius Bailey 14, Cody Montgomery 12, Qua Walls 12, Jarris Elder 4, Dre Bailey 3, Obbie Sarduy 2.