LITTLE RIVER — North Myrtle Beach won’t have to worry about its trip to Myrtle Beach on Thursday.
The Chiefs girls basketball team won the Region VII-AAA title Tuesday night with its 54-43 win over Socastee. Jude Hunt’s team, which will be the No. 1 seed from the region in the Class AAA playoffs and is guaranteed of home-court advantage throughout the first three rounds of the postseason, can now look at its regular-season finale as one involving little more than bragging rights.
And while the Chiefs don’t want to get too far ahead of themselves, that homecourt advantage could be a major factor for a team that has lost just three games at home in the past two seasons.
“Every single year we’ve had to travel for our first-round game,” Chiefs standout Taylor Allman said of the last three years. “We’d have to travel to Bluffton or Airport. Traveling is tough. To be able to have home-court is an unbelievable advantage. We play really well here. We play like a team, and we know how to bounce back if we get down.”
Against the Braves, North Myrtle Beach jumped out to a double-digit halftime lead before Socastee closed it to a two-possession game in the third quarter. But like the Chiefs (21-2 overall, 9-0 region) have done time and again this season, they took an opponent’s best shot before putting the game away.
Allman was once against crucial in that, and she helped North Myrtle Beach to its first region title since the school did it back-to-back in 2004-2005.
She connected on all six of her 3-point attempts – giving her a string of nine straight over the last two games – including a key trey with a little more than 2 minutes to play. She finished with 28 points, and is now averaging just shy of 20 per game.
Still, that point tally or the win wasn’t as easy as the final score indicated for the Chiefs, the fourth-ranked team in the state.
Braves eighth-grader Kira Bell scored 22 points, mostly around the basket, and she did considerable damage early.
“This was by far her best game,” Socastee coach Ginger Ford said. “I always knew she was capable, but she really turned it on. … The thing about Kira is she can catch about anything. She’s probably our best offensive rebounder. To have that, some decent post play, is really going to help us.”
Despite the loss, Socastee is now locked into third place in Region VII-AAA. The Braves will go on the road for the first round of the playoffs, and an assistant was already scouting expected first-round opponent Manning on Tuesday.
Myrtle Beach, which defeated Georgetown on Tuesday to advance to 6-2 in the region, will finish No. 2, and Thursday’s Georgetown-Wilson winner will earn the fourth seed.
As for the Chiefs, this senior class has its first region title, and the benefits that go along with it. Still, Allman isn’t ready for any celebrations from her coach just yet.
“He’s not going to be easy on us right now because we have a goal set in front of us,” she said. “In order for us to reach that goal, he has to push us as hard as he can. We can’t take anything lightly.
“We’re going to push forward into the playoffs. We want to try to go all the way.”
SOCASTEE (43) – Kira Bell 22, Blake Smith 7, Kristin Zanardo 6, Sydney Wortham 3, Sadreona Grant 3, Madison Lowe 2.
• NORTH MYRTLE BEACH (54) – Taylor Allman 28, Ja’Quella Livingston 9, India Farmer 8, Ingrid Edge 6, Ronshelia DeWitt 2, Sarah McCloskey 1.
• 3-point goals: Socastee 3 (Bell, Grant, Zanardo); North Myrtle Beach 6 (Allman). Team fouls: S 14; NMB 14. Fouled out: McCloskey. Technical fouls: None.
• Records: Socastee 14-9, 5-4 Region VII-AAA; North Myrtle Beach 21-2, 9-0.