Throughout the high school boys basketball season, we’ve recognized the standouts from the previous week’s action with the Lowco Boys Hoops Spotlight presented by Rogers Electric, and with the season drawing to a close Saturday with the SCISA state finals, this is the end of the road for 2021-22.
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 season’s final installment of the Lowco Boys Hoops Spotlight presented by Rogers Electric.
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LOWCO STARTING FIVE OF THE WEEK
Sean Cusano, HHP: The Dolphins were looking for a strong rebounder and defender this season after losing the reliable Luke Foley to graduation, and they found it and so much more with junior transfer Sean Cusano. A standout rim protector with the size and athleticism to dominate in the paint, Cusano has been the piece his team needed to make a deep run in a gauntlet of a SCISA 3A bracket. After holding the line in a wacky first-round game with five points and nine boards, Cusano shined against Cardinal Newman on Wednesday, scoring 27 points while shooting 9-of-12 from the field alongside 10 rebounds and five blocked shots. Averaging a double-double with 16.9 points and 11.5 boards, Cusano has staked his claim as one of the Lowco’s best big men as he looks to finish off his junior year with a magical state title run.
James Dennison, BHS: It was a memorable hoops season on Lady’s Island this winter, and Dennison’s dominant play was a big reason why. His efforts on the glass propelled the Eagles to a hard-fought home victory over a pesky North Myrtle Beach side, securing 11 points and 15 rebounds. After helping erase a 20-point deficit against West Florence in his team’s eventual second-round loss Saturday, Dennison continued to fight when his teammates succumbed to foul trouble, finishing his last game in the green and white with 21 points. The lone boys SCBCA All-State selection in the Lowco averaged an impressive 19.4 points, 13.3 rebounds, and 2.1 steals over his senior year.
Sully Gay, BA: The engine of Beaufort Academy’s outstanding 32-8 season, Gay finished up a breakout sophomore campaign as the Eagles soared to the SCISA 2A quarterfinals. He showcased his rebounding prowess to lift his squad to a playoff win Saturday, pouring in 23 points alongside a double-digit effort on the glass. The sensational sophomore averaged over 13 points and eight boards per game over the season and has developed himself into one of the most complete guards in the Lowco.
JJ Hayes, HHP: It’s rare to find a player that consistently puts his team before himself, but JJ Hayes has been the epitome of one for the Hilton Head Prep Dolphins. The senior star has done a little of everything to lead the Dolphins to unseen heights in the SCISA 3A tournament, distributing the basketball to find open teammates, fighting hard for key offensive rebounds, and playing tight and ferocious defense. Hayes found a way to advance his team forward in a challenging first-round matchup with Laurence Manning, scoring all of his game-high 15 points in the fourth quarter and overtime to outwit a crafty effort from the Swampcats. He showed his dynamic set of skills on the court to storm past Cardinal Newman on Wednesday, racking up 14 points alongside eight points and five assists. He’s the heart and soul of this Dolphin squad, and will need to be at his best to pull off an upset of First Baptist and march on to the championship game.
AJ Singleton, WB: Nick Pringle’s Lower State championship crew established a winning tradition two years ago, and his younger cousin has carried it on in Seabrook. Singleton erupted for 19 points in the Warriors’ first-round win over Hemingway before bowing out with an exceptional effort against Hannah-Pamplico, scoring 11 of his game-high 18 points in the third quarter including a trio of threes to keep his team within striking distance of the Raiders. He made his mark on Jim Raymond’s program with a spectacular senior year, and his reliable scoring and intensity on the court will be a big hole to fill for the Warriors next season.
In the rotation: Jake Alvarez, BHS; Gavin Blocker, MRHS; Michael Dennison, BHS; Braydon Dineen, BA; Kane Eanes, HHP; Brandon Howard, THA; Mark Knight, JPII; Zac Morris, HHIHS; Zyrin Odom, BHS; Amarion Wilson, BA
TEAM OF THE WEEK
Hilton Head Prep Dolphins (2-0 this week, 22-3 overall)
The jury was out on whether Hilton Head Prep could handle a stacked 3A bracket after playing as a “flex” team in SCISA Region 4-2A, but Jerry Faulkner’s team has risen to the challenge. The Dolphins survived and advanced past a wacky playoff opener with Laurence Manning on Saturday after the Swampcats drained the entire first-quarter clock while the defense watched in its 2-3 zone. But they remained composed and delivered a gutsy defensive effort to dispose of the Swampcats in overtime. They showcased their offensive firepower in a dominant showing against Cardinal Newman on Wednesday, riding a 22-6 start to a comfortable 13-point win on the strength of center Sean Cusano. With a talented and versatile frontcourt plus a deep group of athletic guards in junior Kane Eanes and senior Ryan Mikell alongside the electric young duo of Ben Frey and Andrew Helms, the Dolphins have used their potent motion offense and a hard-working defensive approach to reach unforeseen heights in the 3A ranks.
GAME OF THE WEEK
Hilton Head Prep Dolphins vs. First Baptist Hurricanes, 5 p.m. Friday at Sumter Civic Center (SCISA 3A semifinals)
It’s the only boys’ game left on the docket, and it should be a heck of a battle in Sumter for the right to play for it all on Saturday. The two teams met just 13 days ago in Charleston in a 20-point Hurricanes win, giving the Dolphins an early look at what could be a difficult matchup. First Baptist has been battle-tested against the best SCHSL and SCISA competition from across the state and came into the postseason winning 10 of its last 11 games with the only setback being a 74-68 defeat to Porter-Gaud. It’ll take a near-flawless effort from a Dolphin team that’s certainly capable of pulling it off. If Cusano and Hayes can win the battle on the boards while the Dolphins’ strong lineup of shooters takes advantage of some looks from the outside, Hilton Head Prep’s high-powered offense can certainly hang with an FBS squad averaging over 62 points per game. First Baptist has the talent and size to match up at all positions, but Jerry Faulkner’s squad is playing its best basketball of the season and will be hungry for another shot at beating the ‘Canes. With a confident group of seniors that should give it their all from the opening tip, the Dolphins have the experience, the will, and the talent to rise to the occasion and move one step closer to an improbable championship run.
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