It was the seniors’ night to shine, and in a tense battle with rival Bluffton, they all rose to the occasion for the Hilton Head High boys basketball team.
Adam Clark led the way with a scorching-hot performance from beyond the arc while Sam Summa thrived in the paint, and Hilton Head’s six stellar seniors shined in a hard-fought 61-51 home victory over the Bobcats, sweeping the season series and improving to 7-0 in Region 7-4A.
“It felt pretty good,” Clark said. “I’m really happy my teammates supported me and I supported them. I think we played well together and we came through when we were struggling.”
The Bobcats didn’t make it easy for their first-place rivals, and found their stroke early to take control in the opening quarter. Summa and Clark put the ‘Hawks on the board first, but Bluffton sharpshooter Eric Eastham responded with six quick points to snatch away the lead. The visitors executed their game plan perfectly, picking apart a stingy Hilton Head defense, knocking down outside shots, and drawing fouls to open up a 14-9 advantage.
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With an early deficit and star Will McCracken in early foul trouble, an old friend came to the Seahawks’ rescue and brought them right back in it. Playing in his first game of the season, senior Nakeydrick Black sparked his squad with five points including a massive three to close the quarter and cut the gap to just two.
Hilton Head found its outside shot in the second and surged ahead, as four different Seahawks splashed in a triple. Alex Smith impressed with a pair of crafty finishes at the rim, but junior Bobcat guard Nick Yanez responded with a three to put Bluffton back in the lead.
But the ‘Hawks took it right back with a Karyce Campbell triple, and the barrage continued with Clark, Zac Morris, and McCracken treys to build an 18-8 run. Bluffton’s Jaylin Linder excelled at getting to the line, hitting a pair of free throws to cut the lead to 37-30 at halftime.
The Seahawk senior night magic was spread all around the court Tuesday night, and Clark found it in a big way early in the third. The shooting star continued his spectacular night, receiving a beautiful cross-court feed from Smith and catching nylon on his way to a pair of early threes and a 13-point Seahawk lead.
DJ Aiken powered his way to some buckets at the rim to cut it back to single digits, but McCracken stormed his way to the hoop for an and-one to halt the Bobcat run. Bluffton continued to hang around in the second half thanks to five more from Linder and a three from Philip McCants, but the ‘Hawks continued to execute on offense and the senior stars feasted, as Summa converted his own three-point play to keep his team up double figures heading into the fourth.
“Rivalry games are tough, and when you play a team twice they start to figure out your tendencies,” Summa added. “Sometimes you just have to overcome adversity and win games, and that’s what championship-level teams are made of.”
It wasn’t a pretty final quarter, but the Seahawks played strong defense to close out their rivals. A Linder feed to Aiken cut the lead to nine midway through the fourth, but missed shots and turnovers denied the ‘Cats any chance of a late rally. Clark fittingly delivered the dagger, drilling his fourth triple of the night on another solid feed from Smith to cap off a senior night a remember.
“I just tried to move without the ball and get open shots that I’ve been working on in practice,” Clark said.
Clark’s quad-fecta from deep led the Seahawks with 16 points. Summa matched his jersey number with 12 on Senior Night, Smith tallied nine, and McCracken added eight in a terrific all-around team effort. Black scored five in his first game back, and fellow ’21s Liam Hutchins and Trevon Frazier both got the start.
“After football season being cut short, to come out here and have an awesome crowd and be able to celebrate it with my family, friends, and teammates is an awesome thing,” Summa said. “Sometimes you gotta win ugly, which is what it takes to be a championship-level team.
Linder and Yanez led Bluffton with 11 points each.
Hilton Head (9-2, 7-0) travels to Beaufort High on Friday.
Bluffton (2-6, 1-6) visits James Island on Monday.
Written by Wes Kerr