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Myrtle Beach's James Marques and Darius Hough celebrate the 68-59 win over A.C. Flora in Florence on Friday in the lower state championship. Photo by Janet Morgan/janet.morgan@myhorrynews.com

It would be easy to say that Myrtle Beach is simply peaking at the right time.

The Seahawks have outpaced their first four playoff opponents by an average of 13 points per game while scoring a tick shy of 68 points each time out. Considering this playoff run to the final game of the season chased one of the team’s biggest clunkers all winter, sure, classifying the last two-and-a-half weeks as little more than a convenient shot of adrenaline would be fitting enough for some.

Not for those within the inner circle.

The fact remains this team has shown flashes of something special since even before the season began.

“It’s always an if. In the summer, we didn’t have the whole team and we were missing pieces. But we knew if we could stay together and if we could play well, this could be the team,” Myrtle Beach coach Craig Martin said, emphasizing every “if” along the way. “This is by far the most gifted team, skill wise, that I’ve ever coached. If we did all those other things, I thought we would have a chance to win a lot of games.”

Here they are, then, preparing for Saturday’s Class 4A championship against Ridge View at Colonial Life Arena in Columbia. Myrtle Beach hasn’t been in this position since Martin’s predecessor, DeAndre’ Scott, led the Seahawks to the 2008 championship.

The years between have produced some highs and lows. There was the 2014 campaign that led to 20-plus wins and a deep playoff run, albeit one that fell one game short of Columbia. There was also a South Carolina High School League-mandated playoff suspension for the 2010-2011 season, Martin’s second year as coach, following the discovery of some illegal offseason practices.

It was with those memories that led Martin to not hit the panic button when his team gave him a heartburn-inducing game to forget on Feb. 11. With the region championship in the team’s grasp, Myrtle Beach had their lowest scoring game against any non-Beach Ball Classic opponent this year and fell at Hartsville. Not exactly a burst of momentum, right?

Still, the current crop of players knew that was one bad game, not a season-ending one.

“We figured out if we started playing together for Myrtle Beach, we knew we could be the best,” senior guard James Marques said of the squad’s early season epiphany.

Digging deeper into some of the playoff numbers and the ones that came before back up Marques’ assessment.

The scoring figures and point differentials from the playoff wins over Midland Valley, Colleton County, North Myrtle Beach and A.C. Flora are actually pretty close to the norm this season. The Seahawks are putting up 67.3 points per game and have outscored opponents via a double-digit clip.

It’s a huge reason why Myrtle Beach has already reached the 20-win plateau heading into Saturday. Even four of the team's five losses this winter are completely understandable. One came to eventual region champ Marlboro County on the road. Two came during the Beach Ball Classic — where the Seahawks are typically considered fodder for nationally known programs. Another was at the hands of a private school in the finals of the Carolina Forest Panther Classic the week prior. The players frequently mention those December tournaments as proof of a larger focus.

“We’re coming together and seeing how good we really are,” junior Ayden Hickman said. “The regular season, the Beach Ball and all that, that’s just getting ready for now.”

They’ve done a pretty good job of making the most of their competition level, then. Of the team’s 20 wins this season, 14 came against eventual South Carolina playoff teams. It ensured that Myrtle Beach was consistently popping into the state’s basketball coaches’ rankings.

Although Martin hasn’t ever been too interested in those.

“State rankings and all that, I couldn’t care less about that stuff,” he said. “The schedule that we play is always tough, probably one of the toughest in the state. It’s intentional. We don’t want to play teams in the playoffs who are better than the ones that we’ve already played.”

The Seahawks played off the three-point loss to Hartsville as the fluke — not the rallying cry.

They already had proof of what this team could do when it needed to.

Now, they’re talking about putting it all into one 32-minute performance.

“Just because it’s the state championship game, just because it’s our last game, it’s still just another game,” Marques said. “It’s another Beach Ball game. It’s a Panther Classic game. It’s an AAU game. We’ve played all these cool games. Now we have to finish business.”

HORRY COUNTY BOYS BASKETBALL TEAMS IN THE STATE FINALS:

Year - School (result)

1946 - Aynor (W)

1961 - Green Sea (L)

1962 - Myrtle Beach (W)

1965 - Myrtle Beach (W)

1987 - Myrtle Beach (W)

1998 - Socastee (L)

2002 - Myrtle Beach (W)

2008 - Myrtle Beach (W)

2020 - Myrtle Beach (TBD)

CLASS 4A STATE BASKETBALL FINALS

Who: Myrtle Beach vs. Ridge View

When: 7 p.m. Saturday 

Where:  Colonial Life Arena, Columbia 

Tickets: $12 per person (fans 5 and under free), available at MBHS through Friday or at Colonial Life box office

About: This is Myrtle Beach’s sixth-ever appearance in the state basketball finals. The Seahawks won each of their first five championship games, and with a victory over Ridge View, they would become just the 11th boys team in South Carolina history with at least six titles. … Ridge View, which opened in 1995, has two boys titles, but they came in the last two seasons under fourth-year head coach Yerrick Stoneman. Since taking over the program, the former Oak Hill Academy assistant has seen all four of his Blazers teams make it to at least the third round of the playoffs each season. And in the last three years, the team has lost only four total games to teams from Class 4A.

Contact Charles D. Perry at 843-488-7236

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