MYRTLE BEACH — The Myrtle Beach boys basketball team’s season was on the line during the final seconds Tuesday.
Junior Soloman Cooper had a putback basket with 6.3 seconds left to give the Seahawks a lead, senior Nolin Butler hit a pair of clutch free throws and Myrtle Beach survived a desperation heave by Marlboro County’s Andre Underwood as the buzzer sounded in an exciting 36-33 win over the Bulldogs that finished with Myrtle Beach fans storming the court in the first round of the Class AAA playoffs.
“It felt good,” Cooper said of the go-ahead basket. “Tonight we were playing for our seniors. This year they were playing hard for us and we’re just trying to help them out and get as far as we can in the playoffs. This gives us a lot of confidence. We’ve been playing up-and-down all season, but we can play with anyone. We just had to go out there and prove it.”
In the fourth quarter as the Seahawks allowed a big Bulldogs run, an emotional Myrtle Beach coach Craig Martin stressed that his players needed to play better as a team.
And they did just that.
“I just wanted to make sure and emphasize that when things are tough, everyone is staying together and doing their part as a team,” Martin said. “We’re team first and that’s what we’ve emphasized all year; that’s what our program is about. It’s not about individuals; it’s about individuals coming together as a team.”
With the Seahawks down 33-32 and about 10 seconds left, Butler missed a 3-pointer. Junior Rivers Singleton, who made a big trey to cut Myrtle Beach’s deficit to one with 34.9 seconds, grabbed the offensive board but missed a putback before Cooper hit the big go-ahead basket.
“If we missed and they got the rebound, we would of had to of fouled, but fortunately we kept getting the offensive boards until Soloman put it back,” Butler said.
Martin had confidence that Butler would execute the way he has all season.
“Give Nolin the ball and let him make the decision on what he wants to do,” Martin said of his thought process in the final seconds. “He did a good job of getting the shot off and Rivers Singleton did a good job getting the offensive rebound and then when he shot and Soloman got the tip-back that’s three guys doing what they’re supposed to be doing and that kind of goes right back to the team concept.
“We don’t have a lot of kids scoring a whole lot of points, but we do have a whole lot of guys that come in and contribute and do their part.”
Butler finished with a game-high 16 points and was the only player on either team to finish in double figures.
“He’s tough,” Martin said. “He plays both ends of the court. He’s very difficult to guard and he gets our team to where we need to be. He’s been a pleasure to coach, but all these guys play a big role. There would be no Nolin Butler if the other guys didn’t do what they’re supposed to do and they’ve done a good job to help him become the player he’s become.”
The Seahawks did a good job defending the Bulldogs, and even held them to just three points in the third quarter.
“That’s the cornerstone of our program is our defense,” Martin said. “We preach defense every day and we work on it constantly. The kids have really bought into the style of the play and it starts on the defensive end and they did a great job of settling down, being tough, aggressive and physical. It’s the one thing we do well on a consistent basis is play defense. We don’t really shoot well obviously, from tonight but we do defend and that’s what keeps us in games like this.”
Myrtle Beach hits the road next for a Friday contest at Orangeburg-Wilkinson, which beat Brookland-Cayce 67-43 on Tuesday.
“It’s the playoffs, one or done. Obviously we’re excited to be in the second round,” Martin said. “Whoever we’re going to play, we’re going to go out and defend and get after it and hopefully we can shoot a little better.”
• MARLBORO COUNTY (33) – London Johnson 3, Andre Underwood 9, Floydreek Davis 2, Raheem Ward 7, Jalon Johnson 4, Tyrek Blair 3, Hallis Larkins 5
• MYRTLE BEACH (36) – Graham Vaughn 2, Nolin Butler 16, Mason Lewis 3, Wayne Vereen 2, Solomon Cooper 7, Nick Wunder 2, Rivers Singleton 2, Coleman Martini 2
• 3-point goals: Marlboro County 1 (Larkins), Myrtle Beach 4 (Butler 3, Lewis 1). Team fouls: Marlboro County 10, Myrtle Beach 14. Fouled out: None. Technical fouls: None.
• Records: Myrtle Beach 15-10, Marlboro County 14-11.
Contact MAX McKINNON at 444-1767.