By Justin Jarrett
Don’t let the nine-point margin deceive you – it was a battle, complete with a cheerleader stunt-off to set the stage for the fourth quarter and the – rematch should be just as good.
James Dennison racked up 25 points and 10 rebounds, Michael Dennison added 17 points and 12 boards, and Jake Alvarez had the best game of his career as Beaufort High boys basketball pulled away in the fourth quarter for a 72-63 win over James Island on Friday to take control of the Region 7-4A race.
A breakneck pace out of the gate had a vociferous Kirkland Krazies section in classic form, as the Eagles dominated the offensive glass and used their size advantage with The Firm of Dennison, Dennison and Odom to score inside, while the Trojans bombed away from 3-point range to keep pace.
That was the story all night, as the Dennison brothers did damage, and James Island answered from long range, hitting 12 triples, including eight in the first half. Braxton Scott drained five 3s and finished with 20 points to lead the Trojans.
Early this season, the concern — the only concern — with Eagles was whether the inexperienced backcourt could hold up to the pressure in Region 7-4A play. The Eagles’ guards aced their latest test, as Alvarez scored a career-high 15 points, including a huge go-ahead bucket to put Beaufort up 48-47 after three quarters and give the home team the momentum going to the fourth.
The Eagles pointed early in the season toward the eventual return of Alvarez as the key to solidifying the backcourt, and he looked more comfortable and confident in the offense than ever against the Trojans, but his absence in November and December also allowed point guard Anderson Jones to develop into a key contributor whose hustle plays don’t show up in the scorebook but make a major impact.
Reserve guards McLeod Reichel and Rowan Higgins also came up with key rebounds and huge buckets to help the Eagles ease away down the stretch even after Zyrin Odom fouled out with 3:30 left after being limited to a season-low four points.
Michael Dennison splashed a 3-pointer from the right wing to put the Eagles up seven, then Alvarez turned a steal into a layup to force a James Island timeout with 5:01 left, and the Trojans didn’t seriously threaten again.
Beaufort (10-4, 7-0) will wrap up the regular season at James Island on Feb. 11, so the region title could be on the line for the rematch.
Beaufort girls pick up first region win
Sometime in the final minute, when it became apparent that his Beaufort High girls basketball team was finally going to finish one off, first-year coach Dominique Cureton looked to the sky and walked to the far end of the Eagles’ bench, a beaming smile across his face.
That smile, and the ones on the Eagles’ faces in the aftermath of a 33-24 home win over second-place James Island on Friday, had been a long time coming. Beaufort played outstanding team defense and hit its free throws down the stretch to snap a seven-game losing streak and pick up its first region win — and its first victory since Dec. 10.
The Eagles had been knocking on the door, even pushing region frontrunner Bluffton to the brink last week, and they stuck to the same gameplan, packing the paint in a zone and forcing the Trojans to shoot them out of it. James Island struggled to do so, managing only nine points in the first half as Beaufort built a tenuous six-point lead.
The Eagles nudged the margin up to eight entering the fourth quarter and it was 23-14 midway through the fourth when James Island star Andrea Duncan heated up and made things interesting. Duncan drained a 3-pointer and added another quick bucket off a turnover to trim the deficit to four, then knocked down a pair of free throws to cut it to 23-21.
The script was too familiar for Cureton, who paced the sidelines looking for an answer. This time, the Eagles had one.
Topaz Williams-Fripp and Anaiya Houseal each hit one of two at the foul line to give Beaufort a bit of cushion, then Jakaylah Webb found a cutting Jayla Daise for a layup to put the Eagles up six. The Trojans cut it to three once more, but Quinn Wilson and Daise each went 4-for-5 from the foul line in the final period to help close it out.
Wilson and Daise each scored 10 points, and Riley Brozek added nine to lead the Eagles. Duncan finished with 16 for James Island.