The available space for region, Upper and Lower State and Class 4-A championship banners in the rafters of Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School has gotten smaller over the years.
Of the 48 banners that proudly hang high above the court, 34 belong to the girls’ basketball program. It’s a winning tradition first established in 1974 by John Brunson, bolstered by the late Edward Pellman who led the team to their four state titles and continued today under current head coach Joshua Staley that has made the Bruins’ Den inhospitable and intimidating for opponents.
On Friday, top-ranked O-W (21-1, 8-0) added another region title and first as a member of Region 8-AAA with a 71-18 pasting of Hilton Head Island for its 11th straight win. Dejoria Howard scored a game-high 23 points in outscoring a Lady Seahawks’ squad that two weeks earlier played the Bruinettes to their third-lowest victory margin of the season.
This time around, the confidence Hilton Head Island gained from an eight-point loss was quickly lost in the opening minutes. By the time Lauryn Bush hit a short jumper with 2:37 left in the first quarter, O-W had scored the game’s first 14 points.
A 27-2 lead after one quarter grew to 49-7 by halftime. The contest turned into a lay-up drill for the Bruinettes with both Howard and Zaria Snipes wowing the crowd with a pair of short baskets off crossover dribbles.
Joining in the scoring barrage were Sade Johnson, who finished with 12 points, and Vondria Ritter, who had 10. Many were the beneficiary of passes by Snipes, who finished with eight points and nine assists.
As O-W found different ways to score, Hilton Head managed only three field goals in the first half and finished with eight for the game. Even uncontested second shots were difficult for the Lady Seahawks to gain second opportunities against the Bruinettes’ taller front court, which got 11 rebounds from Sau’kita Glover.
“We wanted to come out and play strong,” said Staley, who has led the Bruinettes to five region and two Lower State titles in his tenure. “We wanted to make sure we handled business tonight and let it linger on and provide opportunities to upset what we were trying to do. So we wanted to come out, take care of business, play with a lot of effort and you see what happened.”
The third quarter was a replay of the first two as O-W scored the first eight points and held Hilton Head to one field goal in building a 61-9 advantage.
The Lady Seahawks earned a “moral victory” in the fourth quarter as a buzzer-beating jumper by Austin Seelbach, who had a team-high seven points, allowed them to outscore O-W 9-8. With the outcome already determined, O-W played mostly reserves in the final period, led by freshman Shay Jackson whose double-crossover, twisting layup against Seelbach erupted the home crowd and gave the Bruinettes their biggest lead at 55 points.
“It was a butt-kicking,” Hilton Head Island head coach Dave Greenberg said. “We got whipped. They played terrific. They’re a really good team. They’ve got great size, they’re well-coached, they’ve got great quickness and we played very poorly. But they played pretty well. I think they’re pretty good.
“We just fell behind and couldn’t get out. They showed how good they can be, I guess. We just got beat by a better team tonight. Not even closer. We weren’t even in their league tonight.”
With two games remaining, Hilton Head (15-7, 5-3) will look to regroup as it fights to maintain second place in Region 8-AAA over Hanahan.
As for O-W, it finishes with a home game Tuesday against Berkeley and at James Island Friday, trying to maintain momentum into the post-season where the Bruinettes have won 24 consecutive home games.
“That’s a blessing to have the opportunity to play at home and not have to travel,” Staley said. “Hopefully, we can continue to practice well, continue to do better and take care of business at home.”
Zaria Snipes 8, Nabresha Hughes 8, Dejoria Howard 23, Jaquanna Murray 4, Shay Jackson 4, Sade Johnson 12, Vondria Ritter 10,
HILTON HEAD ISLAND (18)
Lauryn Bush 4, Savannah Reier 3, Austin Seelbach 7, Zion Campbell 2, Americal Jenkins 2