Dee Delaney, the summer before his junior season at Whale Branch Early College High School, was packed and ready for a summer league basketball game when coach Linc Lyles mentioned the American Legion baseball game being played the same night.
"Don't you need to be there?" Lyles asked.
Delaney told him he planned to do both, lugged his baseball gear on the bus with the basketball team and competed in two basketball games at Hilton Head Island High School before moving to the baseball field for an Ospreys game.
This past summer, Delaney participated in football workouts in the morning and afternoon, with basketball in between, and played in an adult baseball league on the weekends.
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And after the Class 1-A Lower State basketball final in Florence, Delaney collapsed in a chair outside the Warriors locker room. The senior had led Whale Branch with 22 points, helping the Warriors to the Class 1-A state championship game in Columbia.
That motor pushed Delaney to The Beaufort Gazette/Island Packet Boys Basketball Player of the Year honors and kept Whale Branch moving when it could have derailed. That motor helped earn all-state recognition in a sport he doesn't even enjoy all that much, if he's honest. And that motor has positioned Delaney, who signed in February to play football at The Citadel, to earn all-state in three sports by the end of baseball season.
Among the Warriors' issues on the basketball court this season: freshman guard Justin Rhode missed much of the season with a broken foot. Brothers Simeon and Michael Middleton were unavailable Friday nights and Saturday afternoons and didn't play that crucial Lower State final when Delaney helped take over.
The fatigue did catch up to Delaney. He missed two games with shin splints. But he helped lead throughout. And when Lyles asked Delaney to bring the ball up the floor, he did. When he told him to head to the post, he did.
Delaney wasn't even sure about playing basketball his senior season. He thought about just lifting weights and preparing for college. But Lyles took a chance on Delaney, giving him a varsity roster spot as a sophomore.
The loyalty has been returned.
"He asked me to do it," Delaney said. "Anything he asks me to do -- in my mind, I didn't want to do it, but because it was Coach Lyles, I decided to do it."
Lyles, The Beaufort Gazette/Island Packet Boys Basketball Coach of the Year, enjoyed a deep, talented roster, but also had to strike the correct balance. And in the absence of some of his best players, he had to adjust.
The Warriors, ranked No. 1 in Class 1-A much of the season, won the program's first region title and aimed for Colonial Life Arena.
The final two games of the Class 1-A bracket fell on Saturday. Whale Branch and Lyles knew the Middletons would be unavailable if the team reached the Lower State final. He began preparing the Warriors for their absence, bringing them off the bench for the Lower State semifinal against C.E. Murray.
Short-handed after that, Lyles acclimated the Warriors to the big stage in Florence and then coached them to a win over Carvers Bay. The Bears had a chance to run away with the game, after a big dunk during the third quarter pushed their lead to seven. But Lyles didn't call time out.
The Warriors practiced these situations, taught to get the ball out of the net, push the ball downcourt and score. Lyles wanted to quiet the opposition with a basket, not a timeout.
"It sounds kind of crazy in theory," Lyles said. "But if you watch the film, we get the ball out of the net and push the ball up the floor and score, and they get quiet. They didn't score again (in the third quarter)."
Lyles didn't lock away video from the state championship game loss to Lewisville. He wanted to dissect the carnage and take away lessons for next year.
The Warriors led at the half but were done in by one torrid stretch during the third quarter, when the Lions forced turnovers and created easy baskets on the other end.
Lyles has watched the film several times since. He has been asked if he thought the Warriors hit a plateau after an up-and-down pace in the Lower State final.
"Maybe we did peak early," Lyles said. "But I think we did enough in the first half to give us a chance to win the state championship."
The Beaufort Gazette/Island Packet All-Area Boys Basketball Team
Compiled by Stephen Fastenau and Chris Cox
Player of the Year: Dee Delaney, Whale Branch
Coach of the Year: Linc Lyles, Whale Branch
G -- Simeon Middleton, Jr., Whale Branch
Stats: 12.5 ppg, 4 rpg, 3.7 apg, 2.1 spg
Comment: Athletic forward helped key second-round win over C.E. Murray.
G -- C.J. Frazier, Sr., Bluffton
Stats: 12.1 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 1.5 apg
Comment: Senior put the ball on the floor more often in his final season, creating more shot opportunities for both himself and teammates.
G -- Aaron Frazier, Soph., Hilton Head High
Stats: 16.6 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 1.2 apg, 1.7 spg
Comment: Sophomore proved to be the Seahawks' most dangerous shooter in his first season with the varsity team.
F -- Dee Delaney, Sr., Whale Branch
Stats: 11.8 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 3.3 apg, 2.2 spg
Comment: All-state forward was all over the floor, scored 22 in Lower State final.
F -- Michael Julian, Sr., Hilton Head High
Stats: 11.9 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 3 apg, 2.1 spg, 3.5 bpg
Comment: Veteran led the team in scoring, rebounding and assists during its Region 8-AAA run.
G -- Kendrick Colvin, Jr., Beaufort High
Stats: 12.6 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 2.1 spg, 2.3 apg
G -- Brad Meccariello, Jr., Hilton Head Christian
Stats: 18.4 ppg, 4 rpg, 1.3 spg,
G -- Michael Middleton, Soph., Whale Branch
Stats: 10.1 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 2.3 apg, 2 spg
F -- Devontae Wilson, Soph., Battery Creek
Stats: 12.8 rpg, 4.3 rpg
F -- Marquis Webber, Sr., Bluffton
Stats: 9.2 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 1.1 apg, 1.5 spg
Battery Creek -- Yuneek Crittendon, Adonis Williams, Raheem Cooper
Beaufort Academy -- Preston Suber, Conner Akers, Finn Koppernaes
Beaufort High -- Thomas Parker, Otis McClain, Jawan Mack
Bluffton -- Anthony Smith Jr., B.J. Hill
Hilton Head Christian -- Caleb Lewis, Zach Polk
Hilton Head High -- Jacob Coltrane, Chris MacMurray, James Sanders
Hilton Head Prep -- John Eck, Randy Young
Ridgeland-Hardeeville -- Terrance Frazier, Charles Mitchell
Thomas Heyward -- Davis Owens, Dylan Tillotson
Whale Branch -- Justin Rhode, Denzel Daniel, Jay Abney, Charles Jiles, Terrell Hazel