Girls Hoops: Panthers top Tigers to take region title

Simultaneously weeping and grinning, Alexis Tomlin bear-hugged her mother.

“We did it, Mom,” she said at mid-court. “It took six years, but we did it.”

The Carolina Forest senior had reason to be emotional. After years of struggling to build the girls basketball progam, including a six-win season, the Panthers finally won a region championship.

“Me and Cheyenne [Pyles-Moultrie] have been playing together since seventh grade and we’ve had some really tough years growing up together and learning how to play together,” Tomlin said. “We’ve been a talented group, but we’ve never really had that cohesive mix.”

The Region 6-5A title came Friday night when the Panthers outlasted visiting rival Conway 56-54. The Panthers were leading by 10 heading into the fourth quarter, but the Tigers kept chipping away.

With Carolina Forest leading by two, Tomlin had a chance to seal the victory at the free throw line with 4 seconds left, but she missed the front end of a one-and-one and Conway was gifted a final opportunity. When the Tigers’ last heave bounced off the rim, euphoria ensued.

“It was crazy,” said Pyles-Moultrie, who scored her 1,000th point during the game. “It sent chills down my spine because it’s been forever since Carolina Forest has won the region.”

The title is just Stacy Hughes’ second in her 16 years leading the program. It’s the first since 2009. The team has just four seniors, but three of them — Tomlin, Pyles-Moultrie and Ellen Nardella — have been playing for Hughes since middle school.

“Those three started young,” the coach said. “We’ve had a couple down years, but we’ve just had to fight through and we’ve grown every year with this group and the hard work’s paying off this year.”

Tomlin led Carolina Forest with a double-double of 28 points, 12 rebounds and 5 blocks. Pyles-Moultrie added 12 points and 5 assists, and Ellen Nardella and Gabby Giracello scored 5 apiece.

The Panthers close out the regular season Tuesday against visiting Sumter for an emotional Senior Night, but it won’t be their final home game. Friday’s win, which came one year after the Tigers ended a long region title drought on the same floor (Conway 59 57), allowed Carolina Forest to earn home-court advantage through at least the first two rounds of the playoffs.

* Wilson 48, North Myrtle Beach 40: The Lady Tigers put itself in position for the No. 2 seed in Region 7-4A by beating the Lady Chiefs on their home floor.

North Myrtle Beach (17-4, 4-3) drops into the third spot and faces a first-round road game in the playoffs. Even a win over visiting rival Myrtle Beach in Thursday’s regular season finale would leave the Chiefs on the short end of the head-to-head tiebreaker with Wilson (15-2, 4-2) for second place.

Myrtle Beach (16-3, 6-0) officially clinched the region title Friday despite having the night off.

* Sumter 42, Socastee 32: The Lady Braves suffered a double-digit loss to the Lady Gamecocks.

Photo by Prep Stars Media

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