For years, talks of region basketball tournaments have mostly stalled in and around Horry County, as logistics have prevented a winner-take-all event from determining playoff seeds.
At least one local region doesn’t have much of a choice this year.
Region VI-4A’s athletics directors have pulled the trigger on enacting a tournament to wrap up the regular season and will vote on specifics of it as early as Thursday. The move was made after it became clear that playing even half of the regular region slate would be impossible.
“Playing in a tournament, this year, it’s the only way you can determine a region champ or hierarchy,” Myrtle Beach boys coach Craig Martin said. “It’s better than not having a tournament. We had hopes the first time we were able to play Darlington (Dec. 8/11). After that, it seemed like it kind of fell apart. I kind of got it in my mind that we weren’t going to be able to have a full region schedule.”
While there was some debate as to how Region VI-4A will pull off a seven-team event and have it wrapped up in time, there is no question as to why they needed to do it.
It’s all about time they don’t have.
Last week, the S.C. High School League amended its calendar, giving the individual classifications a few more days to complete their region basketball needs. The Class 4A girls playoffs will now begin on Feb. 20, which the boys side will start two days later. Even with the adjustment, the standard home-and-home series between schools was never going to happen, and even each team being able to play all six region opponents was next to impossible.
That became apparent after the three districts comprising the seven-team region — Horry County Schools, Darlington County and Florence 1 Schools — all had lengthy pauses in their winter sports calendars. Horry County allowed teams to begin practicing last week and resume games this week; Darlington and Florence 1 announced Thursday that their teams could resume practices next week.
So while Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach will have each played each other twice, and Myrtle Beach played Darlington twice before the shutdown, Hartsville, Darlington, West Florence, South Florence and Wilson will be lucky to get in more than three or four more regular-season region games. And that’s before any possible COVID-19 quarantine situations arise.
Clearly, that is a major concern.
According to Horry County Schools, the Myrtle Beach girls are currently in quarantine, along with the boys programs from two Region VI-5A schools, Conway and Socastee. Conway Athletics Director Jason Cox said the Tigers could resume practice on Jan. 17. Socastee boys coach Derrick Hilton said his team could do the same on Jan. 29.
That would leave approximately 17 available game days after acclimation periods for the region to complete any necessary games. Cox and his counterpart at Carolina Forest, Tripp Satterwhite, both said that Region VI-5A will make a decision on a possible tournament the first week of February, if necessary.
As of right now, that also appears increasingly likely. The first team in that region, Sumter, has already announced that sports would not continue as long as the school is full virtual, something that will remain in place until at least Jan. 29.