Throughout the high school boys basketball season, we’ll recognize the standouts from the previous week’s action with the Lowco Boys Hoops Spotlight presented by Rogers Electric.
We select our Starting Five of the top players of the week, along with a few standouts we’re keeping “in the rotation,” as well as a Team of the Week, and highlight the biggest game of the upcoming week. Here’s this week’s installment of the Lowco Boys Hoops Spotlight presented by Rogers Electric.
LOWCO STARTING FIVE OF THE WEEK
Sully Gay, BA: As the schedule has gotten tougher, the sensational Beaufort Academy sophomore keeps getting better. Gay’s dynamic scoring and exceptional hustle were the difference in a pair of key region wins this week, including a 16-point and eight-rebound effort to hold off Hilton Head Christian Academy in overtime. He shined again in limited action against Colleton Prep, racking up 15 points, five rebounds, and four steals. A complete player who always seems to find that extra gear in the biggest games, Gay has become a go-to source for the Eagles in Nick Field’s first season as head coach.
Jo’Corey Walters, HHIHS: With superstars Will McCracken and Sam Summa both lost to graduation, Chane Brown needed a new reliable forward who could score the basketball and play with high energy on defense. He’s found it in junior Jo’Corey Walters, who has ignited the Seahawks on a remarkable four-game winning streak. When his team needed a lift, Walters answered the call in a pair of enormous Region 7-4A victories. After scoring 10 second-half points Tuesday at May River including a key three-pointer, Walters poured in an incredible 12 in the fourth quarter on Friday to knock off first-place Beaufort High. He’s gone from a role player to the key man in clutch time for the Seahawks and should be an important piece down the stretch and into the playoffs.
Sean Cusano, HHP: Playing four basketball games in four days is hard enough, but dominating them all is even tougher. Cusano was up to the challenge for Hilton Head Prep, averaging 18 points and 11 rebounds over those four days. His Ironman-like intensity was unmatched on the court, excelling on the glass and using his size and athleticism to contest and swat away shots at the rim. He turned in a special showing in a tough region battle on Thursday, dropping 23 points alongside 13 rebounds and six blocks to outduel a strong Thomas Heyward side. Cusano has brought a stifling defensive and rebounding presence to Sea Pines this year and has become one of the most talented and versatile big men in the Lowco.
JJ Hayes, HHP: In a menacing four-game stretch in as many days, Hayes came up aces for the Dolphins. The senior showcased a bit of everything over a busy week, scoring 12 points per game and making impacts all around the court with his stellar passing and rebounding, including 17 boards on Thursday against Thomas Heyward. His leadership and team-first mentality have been enormous for his squad, finding open shooters and providing help on defense to come up with some important stops. It’s always an added bonus when you can find your stroke from deep, and Hayes knocked down four 3-pointers including three in just the first quarter to propel the Dolphins over Hilton Head Christian Academy. He’s been an outstanding centerpiece of a talented Jerry Faulkner-led squad over the past two years, and he would love to finish it off with a special postseason run in a challenging Class 3A bracket.
Deshaun Blocker, CCHS: In a critical region matchup against Bluffton, Blocker rose to the occasion with a monster performance. The Colleton County senior went off Friday night, pouring in 29 points to lead an explosive Cougar offense over the Bobcats. He put in the effort on the glass and on defense, adding 11 boards for a double-double alongside five assists and four steals. A prolific shooter who plays with high energy on both ends of the court, Blocker has the talent to take over a game in an instant and will need to keep the hot stroke blazing for the Cougars to maybe sneak into the dance as an at-large team and pull off an upset.
In the rotation: Isaiah Anderson, HHCA; Karyce Campbell, HHIHS; James Dennison, BHS; Braydon Dineen, BA; Kane Eanes, HHP; Josh Evander, MRHS; Quaeshawn Fields, WB; Jaylin Linder, BLHS; Mark Knight, JPII; Tony O’ Banner, THA
TEAM OF THE WEEK
Hilton Head Island Seahawks (2-0 this week, 12-8, 7-3 overall)
Playoff basketball is all about peaking at the right time, and the Seahawks are suddenly looking primed for another special February. There may be a new cast of characters this time around without Will McCracken, Sam Summa, and Jaylen Sneed, but head coach Chane Brown and a group of dynamic and energetic players have found their game when the stakes have been the highest. The Seahawks pulled out a tough road win at May River to start off the week on Tuesday before coming home to The Nest and shocking Region 7-4A unbeaten Beaufort High. The success of Brown’s teams at Hilton Head has started on the defensive end of the floor, and this squad is no different, punishing the Eagles’ bigs inside and pressuring their ball handlers coming up the floor to race out in transition. He may not be the leading scorer on most nights, but Alex Smith was superb in the Seahawks’ statement win Friday, making good decisions with the basketball and wreaking havoc with his quick hands to ignite his team’s offense on the other end. Karyce Campbell is a reliable shotmaker from distance and an explosive finisher at the rim, and Jo’Corey Walters has become a phenomenal sparkplug who willed his team to victory with double-digit second-half points in both games this week. They may not have the star power like last year, but they’ll make you work on every trip down the floor and play beautiful team basketball. The formula for success in the playoffs starts with tough defense and efficient offense, and the Seahawks have both working flawlessly as we head down the stretch.
Honorable Mention: Beaufort Academy (2-0); Bridges Prep (2-1); Hilton Head Prep (4-0); Thomas Heyward (2-1); Whale Branch (2-1)
GAME OF THE WEEK
Beaufort High at James Island, 7:30 p.m. Friday
Sometimes sequels don’t live up to the original billing, but the Beaufort High-James Island rematch on Friday has the makings of another classic with the Region 7-4A title most likely on the line. It will be doubly tough for the Eagles, going on the road to Charleston for the second game of a back-to-back after playing at May River the day before. But the Trojans may have an even tougher two-game stretch, coming back home after going to red-hot Hilton Head High on Thursday. With both teams set to expend some energy in the prior game, we’ll learn a lot about the mentality, conditioning, and resiliency of both sides heading into the postseason. The Eagles relied on the clutch scoring of Jake Alvarez and the hustle and intensity of Anderson Jones in the first meeting, and they will need everything from their budding guard duo against a James Island squad hungry to defend its home court and steal the region crown. If Jeremy Huff’s squad can defend well on the perimeter, control the play on the glass, and take care of the basketball, the Eagles will have a strong shot to bounce back from a tough loss at Hilton Head and slay the Trojans for a second time.
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