By Justin Jarrett
The Whale Branch girls rose to the challenge of a Class 1A top-10 matchup Saturday, as the fourth-ranked Warriors rolled to a 59-43 home win over No. 9 Cross in a pivotal Region 7-1A matchup.
Kynew Barnwell poured in 28 points to lead the way as Whale Branch took control from the outset and never let the Trojans back in it.
The Warriors led 19-14 after one quarter and turned it on in the second, extending the advantage to 35-21 at halftime. The Trojans clawed back within 10 going to the fourth, but Barnwell took over in the fourth quarter with 10 points to help Whale Branch close it out without any drama.
Whale Branch was without center Erin Rivers for the second straight game, but sophomore Layla Love stepped in with 12 points, including eight in the second half, to pick up the slack. Zhani Thompson added 10 points, and Jazmin Diaz had nine for the Warriors.
The Warriors (7-0, 2-0 region) were able to knock off the rust before a huge matchup this weekend, beating visiting Palmetto Scholars 59-42 in a region matchup Friday.
Barnwell poured in 25 points, Diaz added 14, and Thompson had eight for the Warriors, who were without Rivers in their first game since Dec. 21.
Barnwell scored 21 of her 25 in the first half to help the Warriors build a 33-17 halftime advantage. The Phoenix rallied within six heading to the fourth quarter, but Diaz scored all of her 14 points in the second half to help Whale Branch hang on.
Whale Branch boys find a way to win (again)
The Whale Branch boys keep finding ways to win. The Warriors did it again Saturday, earning a 44-41 overtime victory over visiting Cross to improve to 3-0 in region play.
A day after hitting the game-winner in the final second against Palmetto Scholars, Jaylen Reeves scored 17 points to lead the Warriors. AJ Singleton added eight points, and JaQuan Gillison and Devonta Barnard each made big plays in overtime to help Whale Branch prevail.
Gillison hit a huge 3-pointer in the extra period, and Barnard converted a three-point play as the Warriors outscored the Trojans 10-7 in overtime.
Reeves knocked down two big shots in the final minute, and Palmetto Scholars missed the front end of three one-and-one opportunities down the stretch to allow the Warriors to escape with a 37-36 home win Friday.
The game was tied at halftime before Whale Branch charged to a 29-22 lead after three quarters. The Phoenix came clawing back and took a 36-33 lead on a triple with just over a minute left and had a chance to extend the advantage at the foul line, but the Warriors rebounded the miss on the first trip to the line and Reeves cashed in with a pull-up jumper at the other end to trim the deficit to one.
After the Phoenix failed to convert at the line a second time, Reeves again penetrated and pulled up for the go-ahead bucket with 0.8 seconds left.
A foul away from the ball sent the Phoenix back to the line, but another miss allowed Whale Branch (5-2, 3-0) to hang on.
Reeves scored eight of his 10 points in the second half and Devonta Barnard also scored 10 for the Warriors. Jashuan Gillison had eight points, and AJ Singleton added seven.