North Myrtle Beach had finally put together enough of a run to threaten Myrtle Beach.
It was midway through the fourth quarter, and a Seahawks’ lead that had reached as many as 24 points was down to nine.
That’s when Emorie Knox took over again.
The guard knocked down a 3-pointer, dished off a nifty assist to Ayden Hickman and then got involved in a would-be steal that led to a J.J. Jones dunk. The game was over not long later, with No. 7 Myrtle Beach getting the 68-49 win to open Region VI-4A play.
“It seems like he’s been with us forever, but he’s grown and started to play like a senior, like he’s supposed to,” Seahawks coach Craig Martin said. “In my opinion, he’s one of the top if not the top guard in the state. I’ve been saying that for quite a while.”
The Charleston Southern signee finished the night with 27 points, 20 of which came in the opening half. Hickman added 19.
It was too much for a North Myrtle Beach team that entered the night with 13 straight victories and a No. 6 state ranking to start Ryan Walker’s first season in Little River.
“The atmosphere was different. That was our first game in a packed [gym],” Knox said. “What coach told me was ‘Don’t play for the crowd… Just be ready and don’t put your foot on your neck.’”
Instead, it was the Chiefs who found themselves squeezed.
The Seahawks scored 17 of the final 18 points in the opening quarter and then led by 20 at halftime. North Myrtle Beach was able to scrap back into it using some of the defensive pressure that allowed them to win many of those first 13 games this year.
However, Knox and Co. ended the comeback bid.
It all happened in front of a capacity crowd that forced officials at North Myrtle Beach to stop admitting fans long before the boys game started. Staff had to institute and one-out, one-in gate check.
“The environment was huge,” Martin said. “It was exciting to see basketball come to North Myrtle Beach in that way. They appreciate what we’re trying to do at Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach.”
The loss doesn’t derail North Myrtle Beach’s season, not by a long shot. A year after going 7-16, the Chiefs have already secured a winning record, something that had not happened since 2014-2015.
They’ll still have every opportunity to stay amid the region championship conversation. After all, this was only the beginning.
It just happened to be the one that Myrtle Beach wanted.
CHIEFS GIRLS OPEN REGION PLAY WITH NARROW VICTORY
When freshman Riley Vincent launched a 3-pointer with her team already up one and under a minute left in overtime, her coaches were asking “Why?”
When it went in, the North Myrtle Beach staff had a different reaction.
Vincent’s shot gave her team a four-point cushion and propelled it to a 49-44 victory over rival Myrtle Beach in the Region VI-4A opener for both teams.
“We were not prepared for her to do that,” Chiefs coach Brooke Smith said. “But she has the confidence to do it. She stepped up and knocked it down.”
Vincent, a freshman, finished with 13 points. Jordan Berger led the way with 15, while Daveona Hatchell added another 13 of her own. Fatima Alston had 14 for the Seahawks.