Beaufort High’s boys had their backs against the wall as they faced down a devastating defeat Saturday, but the Eagles showed their mettle and pulled out a thrilling road victory. James Dennison put up 14 points and 15 rebounds, and the Eagles overcame a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit to survive a 42-40 battle at Bluffton and stay perfect in Region 7-4A play.
“Those guys never gave up,” head coach Jeremy Huff said. “They’ve got more heart than anyone I’ve seen in a long time. We learned that if we all stick together, good things are going to happen.”
It couldn’t have started out much better for Beaufort High, as “The Firm” of James Dennison, Michael Dennison, and Zyrin Odom controlled the play in the paint to take an early 8-2 lead. A desperate Bobcat team turned to its main man for a spark, and Jaylin Linder went to work, scoring seven quick points including a dazzling spin-o-rama layup to cut the deficit to one.
Beaufort High’s frontcourt continued to win the battle on the glass, but the Eagles missed some point-blank layups and struggled from outside to keep their rivals in striking distance. Then the Bobcats made their move. With the visitors up by five, center DJ Aiken got the home crowd back into it, posting up for a textbook finish at the rim before Linder powered in another layup just before the buzzer to seize the momentum and go into the locker room within just a point at 18-17.
Bluffton jumped on top just moments into the second half, as senior sharpshooter Nic Yanez drilled a triple to give his team its first lead since the opening minutes. The go-ahead shot set up a dominant 17-6 third quarter surge for the underdogs, as Bluffton’s athletic defenders denied easy looks for Beaufort’s bigs while cutting off passing lanes to set up a revitalized Bobcat offense. The Eagles couldn’t contain a high-energy Linder, who sliced through Beaufort’s menacing frontcourt to cash in at the foul line and convert a pair of tough layups to raise the lead to eight.
With just seconds to play in the period, the Bobcat star struck again, banking in a jumper at the buzzer to erupt the home crowd and put the Eagles on the ropes with a 10-point deficit. The hole was deepening with just eight minutes to play, but Huff and the Firm were ready for the challenge. The Eagles turned up the defensive pressure down the stretch, cutting into the lead with some hard-earned buckets in the paint from Odom and the Dennison brothers to make it a six-point game with just over five minutes to play.
Linder answered back with a three-ball to give the Bobcats some more cushion at 39-31, but Beaufort’s bigs continued to clean up on the glass as Odom rattled off six quick Eagle points to help cut it to just three.
“We were in a little bit of foul trouble, but we said, let’s put some pressure on them to make some mistakes, and we stepped up,” Huff said. “The guys in foul trouble didn’t foul, and we just played good, hard defense those last few minutes.”
The nervousness on the Bluffton sideline continued to grow with every passing second, and a hungry Beaufort squad just kept rolling. Odom passed the baton to James Dennison down the stretch, and the elder Dennison delivered a putback to cut it to one before finishing a transition layup from Odom to go back on top. The Bobcats got break after break with missed free throws and a lane violation down the stretch, but a scrappy Beaufort squad cleaned up every bad shot and loose ball as the clock continued to tick down.
After five straight misfires from the line, Michael Dennison ended the drought to go up 42-40, but a clank on the back end led to a wild Beaufort floater, and Linder corralled the board and sprinted upcourt. The junior brought it into the paint with a head of steam looking for the tie, but the shot was defended perfectly before a last-gasp effort by Yanez couldn’t beat the buzzer. It wasn’t the prettiest, but the Eagles went back to Lady’s Island with a wild win.
“That just showed how much heart our whole team has,” Huff said. “They weren’t going to let Bluffton get that rebound, it was all about us getting it.”
The Firm came through with another stellar effort on the road, as James Dennison led the way with 14 points and 15 rebounds. Odom put up 12 points and 13 boards, while Michael Dennison also secured a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Linder was sensational for the Bobcats in a tough defeat, leading all scorers with 24 points.
Beaufort High (9-4, 6-0) earns a well-deserved night off Tuesday before hosting James Island in a bout of the region’s final two unbeaten teams. Bluffton (4-11, 0-6) will look to rebound Tuesday in a Bridge Bowl rematch at Hilton Head High.
By Wes Kerr
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