After taking the week off to hit the books during exam week, Heathwood Hall’s boys and girls basketball teams are ready to hit the hardwoods again.
The Highlands boys team (6-1) opens play in the Porter-Gaud holiday tournament in Charleston on Friday against Class 4A Berkeley. Heathwood Hall’s girls (3-4) begin play on Friday in the Thoroughbred Classic at South Aiken High.
“We are excited about going to Charleston and playing in the Porter-Gaud tournament,” said HH boys coach Jeff Whalen. “We are looking forward to the competition and think that this tournament will make us a better team for the rest of the season.”
The Highlanders have posted two straight blowout wins since suffering its first setback of the season against defending SCISA Class 3A runner-up Wilson Hall (55-49) in Sumter on Dec. 9. The good start is even more impressive considering HH has played just one home game so far.
“I really think that the last game that we played at Northwood's Academy (a 78-49 win) was the best team effort that we have had this year in terms of defense and being unselfish,” said Whalen.
“Freshman Joseph James has been a pleasant surprise for us at one of the guard positions. Coleman Davis, our lone senior, has been playing very well of late. Corey Littlejohn, our leading scorer from last season, is our leading scorer again, but he is much improved at getting the ball to other players when they are open. Mac Whalen had a slow start due to an ankle injury from football seems to back in basketball shape and ready to go. Unfortunately, we lost his twin, Morgan, to an ankle injury in the Wilson Hall game. That hurts us because he is our best defender and brings energy to the floor. Hopefully, we will get him back after Christmas. I also have been pleased by the quality minutes that players coming off the bench have given us. Taylor Zurcher, Andrew Hickman, William Middleton, Matt Smith and Joseph English have all provided us with a spark with their play.”
Littlejohn leads the team in scoring (22.0 ppg ) and rebounding (9.1 rpg) so far, and is shooting 57% from the field. He also is leads the club in steals with and is second in assists (24). Mac Whalen is averaging 9.0 ppg and leads the team with 25 assists. Davis is averaging 8.1 ppg. Johnson is averaging 7.3 ppg and is shooting 50% from 3-point range (7-for-14).
The HH girls (3-5) are mired in a three-game losing streak, and looking to get back on track at the round-robin affair at South Aiken. The Highlanders square off against Midland Valley on Friday, Barnwell on Monday and host South Aiken on Tuesday.
“We’ve had a lot of injuries, so its been a rough start for us,” said Highlanders girls coach Jack Warren. “But we’re getting healthier and we hope to start hitting our stride.”
Senior guard Kristen Dickerson and junior center Arayael Brandner recently committed to play college ball at Francis Marion and Elon, respectively. Dickerson is averaging 21 points and four assists a game this season, while Brandner is averaging 12.7 points and 11.5 rebounds.
“Kristen is as poised a player as I’ve had in 30 years of coaching,” said Warren. “She has come a long way in her career. She’s a leader and a tremendous competitor. Arayael is as tough a post player as you’ll find and she’s also worked very hard to improve her skills over the past four years.”
The two four-year veterans are the foundation of a team that is coming off a 30-4 campaign and a runner-up finish at the SCISA Class 3A state tournament.