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Myrtle Beach's Terry Williams finds an opening to score in the victory over Midland Valley on Wednesday. The Seahawks won 72-51 in the opening round of the state playoffs. Photo by Janet Morgan/janet.morgan@myhorrynews.com

Anyone who watched the final 16 minutes of Myrtle Beach’s victory over Midland Valley in the opening round of the 4A state playoffs can see why so many around South Carolina believe the Seahawks are one of a handful of candidates who will challenge for the state title.

What came before it is evidence against it.

The Seahawks routed Midland Valley on Wednesday, running away with a 72-51 victory to advance. However, a first half that saw the Mustangs lead by as many as 10 points was everything Craig Martin wishes he could work out of his team.

“The shots that we were getting were the ones we were wanting to get,” Martin said. “Sometimes, you’re dealing with high school kids and it just happens that way. It’s frustrating because you’re putting them in the right place, the right time, the right pass. We’re just not finishing. Some of it is there’s nerves out there. It’s a playoff game. A lot of times, I think the wide open shot is tougher than the guarded shot in our case.”

Myrtle Beach proved it time and again during the first two quarters. Despite plenty of point-blank attempts — many of which were uncontested — the basketball kept rimming out and back in Midland Valley hands.

The Seahawks started to adjust just before halftime, but still trailed by two.

It’s been a common trend for Martin’s bunch, as they’ve now had to stage a second-half comeback in four of their last six games. There were single-digit margins against Midland Valley and Darlington, but also double-digit deficits against Hartsville and North Myrtle Beach.

In three of those games (Hartsville being the exception), Myrtle Beach came out with a win.

Regardless, the slow starts have been a concern.

“We’ve got to come out and put our foot on the pedal as soon as we come out,” said senior Emorie Knox, who earlier in the day was named to the Class 4A all-state team. “We always play down to our competition. That’s been one of the biggest problems we’ve had. But once we get into the second half, it’s OK.”

Knox is part of the reason it ended up being OK.

After a two-point first half, he ended the game with 22 points. J.J. Jones added 12 points for the Seahawks and Qualique Burgess had 11.

Myrtle Beach, which finally got Ayden Hickman back in uniform after three games out with an injury, was again without its full complement of players. Fellow all-region selection Darius Hough (coach’s decision) never got off the bench. And without directly speaking about Hough, Martin said these comebacks are getting more and more serious, if for no other reason that the games mean even more this time of year.

He verbally challenged his older players after the game, and then repeated it in the hallway outside his office. Martin knows Saturday’s second-round contest at Colleton County will leave even less room for error.

“It’s a matter of having seniors who don’t want their time to end,” Martin said. “Every time we’ve had seniors who put something out there and had ownership of the program, we’ve never had issues. … They’ve got to get after it and not let it end.”

Scores from other Wednesday prep games:

5A (boys)

Carolina Forest 55  Wando 51

Conway 57  Stratford 53

Goose Creek 52  St. James 28

4A (boys)

North Myrtle Beach 73  Hilton Head 51

Contact Charles D. Perry at 843-488-7236

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