Craig Martin walked off the court at the end of the first half in silence, hardly looking up from the floor.
The way his Myrtle Beach boys basketball team had played against Darlington, only the post-game handshake line probably prevented him from doing it again after the final buzzer sounded.
The ninth-ranked Seahawks were thumped at home Tuesday night by the Falcons, eventually losing 80-65. The quicker Darlington team took advantage of second-chance scoring opportunities early and often and then continued to show why they will likely be a top-five team in Class 4A when the new rankings are released sometime this week.
“There’s definitely a gap between us and them right now,” Martin said. “Luckily, we’ll get another chance, but at their place, it will be tough. They’re a good team. They’re doing a lot of things that we used to do. We used to run and fill lanes and be aggressive. We used to get back in transition defense. … We’ve got to meet their energy.”
The loss came after a combination of miscues, from missed layups to defensive lapses that helped Darlington hammer home a second double-digit region victory. Using a wave of players, five of which who scored in double figures, the Falcons and first-year coach Anthony Heilbronn stormed out of the gates to a 10-2 lead and held a 20-plus-point advantage throughout much of the second half.
It moved Darlington to 15-2 overall and 2-0 in region play, and flexing its muscles has just sort of been what that team has done this year. The Falcons’ only losses to date came against Keenan in the finals of the Gatorade Preseason Shootout and West Florence in the finals of the Pepsi Carolina Classic.
They opened the 2019 calendar with an impressive win over Wilson last Friday. Making quick work of Myrtle Beach, then, wasn’t that much of a surprise. The Seahawks failed to chip into the 19-point halftime deficit, with some help from those aforementioned close-range misses, until the final moments of the game.
Every time Myrtle Beach showed a flash of mini-success, Darlington would counter. However, the issues may have started before the game even tipped.
“We didn’t come prepared,” said guard Emorie Knox, who led Myrtle Beach with 17 points. “We haven't been taking practice seriously lately. It all starts in practice. We need to go hard in practice, and it will translate to our game.”
The Seahawks (8-8, 1-1) will hit the road for back-to-back games at Marlboro County and Hartsville - which was also ranked in the pre-holiday state polls - before facing Wilson at home next Friday. Those three games will wrap up the first half of region play, and Martin understands there is already very little room for error.
No longer is his team playing without its full roster due to the extended football season or against higher-caliber tournament opponents. Now, Myrtle Beach has eight games left, but with a significant black mark in the loss column of the region slate.
“We’ve got to do a better job of protecting home court. That’s it,” Martin said. “We’ve got to go to Marlboro County and then we’ve got to protect home court. Everywhere you go in this region, it’s a two-hour bus ride and it’s hostile environment. Obviously, we’ve got to be ready to play.”
SEAHAWK GIRLS SLUG DARLINGTON
Myrtle Beach’s region-opening loss to North Myrtle Beach last week was a bit unexpected for the sixth-ranked team in Class 4A.
The Seahawks’ rebound game was more of what coach Jennifer Dennison had hoped for, especially in the second half.
Behind a 22-5 third-quarter burst, Myrtle Beach improved to 11-4 overall and 1-1 in Region VI-4A with 42-17 victory over Darlington on Tuesday. Ajia Kelly led the Seahawks with 10 points, and Charleston Southern signee Asia Smith had nine points and eight rebounds.
Myrtle Beach led Darlington, which was ranked No. 9 in the state entering the game, 9-5 at halftime.