On Senior Night at the Island Rec Center, Hilton Head Christian Academy’s graduating class of girls basketball stars did what they do best: dominate from start to finish.
Dior Shelton posted 22 points on her special night, and HHCA shredded Beaufort Academy again 69-33 Saturday, completing the two-game season sweep.
The home Eagles got to business right away, picking apart the BA defense for buckets in the paint and opening up looks from beyond the arc. The defense was remarkable, shutting down BA star Mike’Ala Washington and holding the sophomore standout scoreless in the opening quarter.
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After capping an 18-7 run in the opening quarter with two free throws from senior Mary Yanker, Kenny Conroy’s group stretched the lead further in the second period. An unstoppable Shelton thrived near the basket, scoring seven points and capping off the period with an and-one.
Tahleea Heyward picked up the lone field goal for BA in the quarter, as a hungry HHCA defense feasted on loose balls and kept the visitors out of their rhythm to take a commanding 29-11 lead heading into the locker room.
Hilton Head Christian picked up right where it left off after the break, opening the half on a 9-0 run. Shelton feasted on both ends of the court, drawing fouls and knocking down a quartet of free throws before cleaning up a miss and swatting away a Washington layup attempt on the other end.
Then the star showed off her shot from long range, banging in a corner triple to cap a nine-point frame. The two phenom freshman guards connected as Devon Yarde found Molly Smith for an open jumper, then Smith drained a beautiful floater before Yarde delivered a masterpiece layup to end the quarter, zooming to the hoop and calmly laying it through the hole to balloon the lead to 53-22.
Washington turned it on with 14 second-half points, but the offense couldn’t keep up with an HHCA squad firing on all cylinders all night long. Senior Mikayla Kelca converted a fourth-quarter bucket to polish off another phenomenal Eagle performance.
Molly Smith scored 15 points to support Shelton’s remarkable night, and Abby Peduzzi added 12.
Washington tallied 15 to lead Beaufort Academy, and Heyward put up 11.
It was a night to honor a trio of seniors who left a remarkable legacy on their program. Shelton, Yanker, and Kelca have led HHCA to an astounding 88-7 record and a perfect 38-0 mark in region play along with a pair of state championships in their four years. And by the way this squad is playing right now, a third is certainly in reach.
“It’s definitely been a fun journey,” Yanker said. “It’s even better when you get to win with your friends and we’ve built a family and really good team camaraderie. I think it’s a testament to our coaching and all the great players we have on our team. [Winning three] would be the cherry on top.”
That close bond has carried them through on the rare occasions when they’ve been challenged by a stronger opponent.
“It just shows that hard work and supportiveness pays off,” Kelca said. “We all support each other and we all push each other to work harder. It all pays off in the end and we can stand together as seniors looking back three years ago and say we’ve grown a lot stronger and closer together. People on the bench are cheering people on the court, and then outside of the games we’re cheering on each other. It shows that it works, being a genuine teammate.”
Saturday night was a well-deserved celebration of the seniors’ accomplishments as a group, but they aren’t content to end their story here.
“We’ve made a lot of memories together which I love,” Shelton said. “We learn from each other and we push each other to be the best that we can be. I think personally it would mean a lot to me because I’ve been pushing myself towards getting this championship, and team-wise that would be a great accomplishment for all us because we’ve practiced so hard to get to where we want to get, and that’s getting that third state championship.”
Written by Wes Kerr