MYRTLE BEACH 55 MIDLAND VALLEY 51 (OT)
MYRTLE BEACH — Mark Snelgrove immediately knew what cost his team.
Midland Valley had been eliminated just moments earlier from the Class AAA playoffs with a 55-51 overtime loss to Myrtle Beach. And for the Mustangs' head coach, despite a historic season in which the squad nicknamed “Sauce Team” won 23 games, a simple glance at the rosters told a story.
Specifically, it helped break down how Myrtle Beach overcame a 16-point second-half deficit to advance in the postseason.
“That was the difference in having nine seniors and us basically having one who plays a lot,” Snelgrove said. “We executed the gameplan very well the first half and then the start of the second half. We were still doing what we wanted to do. They picked up the tempo a little bit and started going after loose balls harder than we were. We were reaching. We were trying to hold out instead of taking it and winning it.”
It was certainly there for the taking for most of the night – just not when it mattered most.
The Seahawks started a 15-0 run midway through the third quarter, forcing Midland Valley turnovers and bad shots. The Mustangs held onto the lead until Myrtle Beach senior Brooks Swanson finally tied it at 49-49 with 30 seconds left in regulation. Swanson scored a game-high 23 points.
In overtime, Midland Valley couldn't get the points it was scoring at will earlier in the night.
“There were a couple of plays where we turned the ball over,” said Mustangs junior Kameron Brown, who led the team with 15 points. “They out-hustled us in the second half,” Brown said. “I felt like we had a good team effort. We just fell short.”
Snelgrove said a bit of timid play late in the game was a broad indication of the difference in experience.
The Mustangs led by four points with four minutes to go in fourth quarter and played a game of keep-away that chewed more than a minute off the clock. On the surface, it appeared to be a span of time working in Midland Valley's favor.
“That was the turning point,” Myrtle Beach coach Craig Martin said. “You could feel that from the other side. I don't know how many tight games or big games they've been in, you could kind of see them tense up a bit like we did in the past when we were young.”
Said Snelgrove: “They were dribble, dribble, dribble, dribble instead of taking it on their shoulders. The three minutes after that, I think that's where they lost their composure. That's stuff you have to learn; you have to go through it. There is no tomorrow. In the regular season, you do that, there's tomorrow. In the playoffs, there's no tomorrow.”
After Midland Valley scored just four points in the final eight minutes, including overtime, it was over.
The loss hurts, but it won't diminish the season, the coach said.
The Mustangs will lose four seniors, but only one who started Wednesday night. Midland Valley will likely once again be in the mix as one of top-ranked teams in 2014-2015. After all, they were one of four who achieved the top spot in the state polls this season.
The returning players aren't questioning their coach's logic.
“We're still a young team,” said Brown, who along with sophomore guard Daniel Carr (13 points) and freshman forward Devon Young (nine points) will be formidable next season. “Most of the players are coming back next year. I can't argue with that.”
MV 9 14 13 13 2 – 51
MB 9 8 14 16 6 – 55
Midland Valley (23-5)—Daniel Carr 13, Devon Young 9, Taijha Turner 5, Kameron Brown 15, Bryan Johnson 3, Miles Gilmore 4, Aaron Ray 2.
3-pointers: Kameron Brown (2), Bryan Johnson, Taijha Turner.
Myrtle Beach (23-6)—Anthony McNeil 7, Graham Vaughn 7, Soloman Cooper 12, Rivers Singleton 1, Brooks Swanson 23, Drew Allan 2, Will Gray 3.
3-pointers: Anthony McNeil, Brooks Swanson.