In just his second year as head coach of Hilton Head Island High School’s boys basketball team, Chane Brown has led his alma mater to previously unknown heights on the court.
After a shaky performance on Monday night, Hilton Head High left no doubt in the second round of the SCHSL Class 4A playoffs. The Seahawks pulled away on the strength of their ferocious second-half defensive intensity to defeat Myrtle Beach 60-43 on Thursday and punch their ticket to the program’s first-ever Lower State final.
“I think Coach Brown’s motto is just to play hard on defense,” senior Sam Summa said. “We’ll get easy points on offense too. Coming into halftime, he said we gotta shut down Ayden Hickman, so we tried to, and I think we did it in the second half.”
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Hilton Head raced out to an early 9-2 advantage, sparked by a dialed-in Will McCracken. The superstar senior got his night rolling quickly, picking up a loose ball and taking it to the hole before knocking down a pair of triples to put his team up nine. The two squads relied on their outside shot in the opening quarter, draining a trio of shots each from beyond the arc.
Na’keydrick Black came in strong off the bench as the quarter came to a close, nailing a tough floater on his second effort to answer a Myrtle Beach three, but TJ Austin drained a triple in the corner to cut the lead to 16-11 after eight minutes.
Black converted another floater and reliable point guard Alex Smith sunk a layup to extend the lead to seven, but a quick lapse put Myrtle Beach right back in the game. A string of four straight turnovers rattled the hometown squad, and the visitors racked up five straight points to cut the deficit to a pair.
Adam Randall found his groove in the paint, connecting on a trio of baskets in the period to even the Lower State semifinal at 22. Hilton Head couldn’t find its solid execution from the first quarter, and Myrtle Beach continued to attack and find looks both inside and from deep. The visitors dealt what seemed to be a massive blow to end the first half, as the dangerous Ayden Hickman banged a three in the dying seconds to give his squad its first lead of the game at 25-24, taking a huge surge of momentum into the locker room.
“We just had to make some adjustments and tell them to leave it all on the line,” head coach Chane Brown said.
The sold-out home crowd was stunned, but the Region 7-4A champs dedicated themselves to making a statement right out of halftime. They came through in a phenomenal way. Hilton Head walked back to the court with fire in its eyes and conjured up a defensive masterpiece in the third quarter. It all turned around in an instant, sparked by a vicious Jaylen Sneed two-handed jam that brought the house down and put his team back in the lead.
“We told Jaylen coming out of the half that if you get an open opportunity, dunk it,” Summa said. “That all changed the momentum, it really just energized the whole team. Then we got stops on defense, ran in transition, and played a lot more fast and physical.”
The home squad fed off the monster play, rattling off 12 straight points to start the period fueled by an unbeatable defensive effort. Smith scored on a crafty drive to the hole, and the junior fed a dime to McCracken to go up 30-25.
But the hometown Seahawks were hungry for more, and Sam Summa delivered. The senior and UCLA football commit put on a show, scooping up rebound after rebound and dominating in the post to score 10 straight Hilton Head points and balloon the lead to 11.
“Once he gets started, it’s hard to stop him,” Brown said. “He’s a load down there. He has good footwork and finesse around the basket.”
Summa’s phenomenal play extended to the defensive end, denying Myrtle Beach in the paint and forcing tough outside shots the visitors couldn’t knock down. Hilton Head continued to extend the lead with its fantastic ball movement, hustle, and shooting. McCracken was gifted a layup after a misplay at the baseline before Smith dished to a wide-open Adam Clark, who drained a dagger three to put his team up 15 in the fourth.
Myrtle Beach made a late charge with a pair of Austin 3-pointers, but the visitors couldn’t make up Hilton Head’s crushing 14-4 third-quarter run. The lead was cut to eight with under two minutes left, but Summa and Clark got the job done at the line as the hometown fans erupted in celebration. For the first time ever, Dunk Island is headed to the final four.
Summa’s unbelievable second-half effort paced the squad, scoring 12 of his 16 points in the final two quarters. McCracken put up a strong 14, Clark added 10, and both Smith and Sneed contributed an important eight in a terrific balanced effort.
After helping his Seahawk squad reach the elite eight in 2002, Chane Brown has brought his alma mater a step further than it has ever been. The last time the primary public high school serving Hilton Head Island was still playing this late in the season was in 1977 — when Bluffton’s McCracken High School lost in the state finals. Hilton Head High opened in 1983.
Now just two wins away from an unthinkable state title, Hilton Head (15-2) will set its sights on Hartsville in the Lower State championship on Monday. The Red Foxes will present a formidable challenge, but after a dominant victory over a talented Myrtle Beach squad, the Dunk Island stars know they can hang with and take down anyone.
By Wes Kerr