Prior to Tuesday night, Jude Hunt showed some concern over his team’s ability to grow.
The North Myrtle Beach coach’s squad entered the season as the prohibitive favorite in Region VII-AAA, and then opened the year with back-to-back blowout victories. Hunt pulled the majority of his starters early in victories over West Brunswick (N.C.) and Loris – a pair of games the Chiefs won by an average of 54 points.
Given the early results, even Carolina Forest coach Stacy Hughes joked before Tuesday night’s game about asking officials for a running clock.
Consider what actually happened a bit of a wake-up call for a North Myrtle Beach team with big-time expectations.
The Chiefs won the game 36-27, but not before finding out the path to any sort of title isn’t going to be smooth.
“That’s similar to how we opened the other games,” Hunt said after his team started the game on a 15-0 run. “I think, realistically, I knew it was probably wasn’t going to end that way. But our girls were probably thinking it was going to be another game like it’s been. Then all of a sudden, Carolina Forest started making some plays. … We’re not going to show up and blow out everybody.”
The Chiefs’ fast start included a little bit of everything they have done well to this point. The team was forcing the Panthers into bad shots and turnovers, and seniors India Farmer, Ja’Quella Livingston and Taylor Allman were taking advantage of size and speed advantages.
After that game-opening run, though, it was a different story.
North Myrtle Beach (3-0) started to miss shots; in the second quarter, the team scored just two points.
“To have a game like this, it’s challenging,” Farmer said. “It does nothing but make us better because we have had some easy games and easy wins.”
Farmer and Co. did just enough to stave off Carolina Forest’s comeback bid. She finished with nine points and nine rebounds. Allman scored a team-high 15 points, and Livingston had a double-double (11 points, 11 rebounds).
Still, the shooting slump was a concern. As a team, the Chiefs finished 13-of-47 from the floor.
Meanwhile, the game was also a positive sign for Carolina Forest (1-4). The Panthers have four seventh-graders on the 10-person varsity roster – including starting point guard Cheyenne Pyles – and Hughes knows opposing teams are going to focus on forward Marisa Runyon.
The senior scored a game-high 16 points and connected on four 3-pointers. However, Runyon also got significant help from classmates Ashleigh Turner (nine points) and Christina Wright (11 rebounds).
The teams will meet against Dec. 14 at North Myrtle Beach. Between now and then, the Chiefs will also play Conway (Thursday) and have another matchup with West Brunswick.
Regardless of how those games go, however, Hunt believes his team discovered an important lesson.
“We’ve got some things we felt we didn’t do too well,” he said. “We didn’t shoot as well as we normally do. Our girls, they have to realize that’s going to happen sometimes. They’ve got to realize defense is what’s going to make the difference when that happens. They can out-hustle the other team and out-rebound and play defense harder. We can’t just cruise through everything when we’re not hitting our shots.”