Strand team holds home court, wins national title

A basketball team made up predominately of Horry County players captured a national championship Wednesday, and they didn’t even have to leave their back yard to do it.

Big Shot Elite SC 2021, which features eight rising sophomores from seven different area high schools, won the Boys 15-16 division title at the National Travel Basketball Association tournament at the Myrtle Beach Sports Center. The team rolled past the Swish City Magic 62-40 to cap a perfect 8-0 record in pool and bracket play.

“We made it to the championship game last year and ended up finishing second, so our guys have been looking forward to coming back and winning it all this time,” Coach Jason Warren said. “They play really well together, probably because they have been teammates so long. We’ve added a couple of players but the core group has stayed together. It’s a very balanced team. Every game someone different steps up.”

Socastee High’s Jon Jones scored a team-high 15 points, and pair of Carolina Forest players, Grant Warren and Kyle Watkins, scored in double figures in the final with 13 and 12, respectively. They joined Myrtle Beach’s Ayden Hickman, North Myrtle Beach’s Javil Marlowe, St. James’ Jeremiah Nesbitt, Loris’ Jamarious Herring and Christian Academy of Myrtle Beach’s Lawton Fulford, along with two Dorman High standouts in hoisting the trophy.

In pool play, Big Shot Elite SC 2021 defeated the East Cobb (Ga.) Playmakers 57-54, the Carolina Hounds 72-48 and the New England Nightmare 69-23 to make the final bracket of 32 teams. They won their opener over the Virginia Warriors 69-53, then rallied to score the final 16 points of the game in a 49-37 victory over the VABA Bruins. They battled through the quarterfinals with a 60-59 overtime victory over Richmond Elite, and a 61-46 semifinal win over Loudon Extreme, which saw Hickman pour in 26 points,.to earn their second shot at the title.

“Our motto since last year has been ‘Unfinished Business’,” said Coach Warren. “By the time we got to the finals we were dialed in. We jumped on them early, played amazing defense, and we were hitting everything. Our guys just wanted it more.”

Despite being rivals during the high school season, the team is surprisingly tight in travel ball – aside from a little good-natured ribbing. “It’s all friendly,” said guard Grant Warren. “We try to get bragging rights against each other in school ball and we joke about who beat who, but it’s all in good fun. We’re teammates.”

Coach Warren credits the team’s cohesiveness for the time they’ve spent on the court together. “A lot of these guys have been playing (rec basketball) together since the third grade, and they’ve been playing travel ball together since the sixth grade. We started out going to North Carolina to play in (a regional league) and we’ve just kept moving up.”

More than 140 boys teams from all over the country took part in the five-day tourney, with eight courts holding as many games simultaneously. The home advantage literally pays off for Big Shot Elite SC 2021. Since the Myrtle Beach Sports Center opened four years ago, several organizations have moved their tournaments to the Grand Strand, allowing the local teams to avoid the expense and distractions of travel.

“It’s convenient to have such a great venue in our home town,” Coach Warren said. “We play 10 tournaments a year here.”

In fact, Big Shot Elite SC 2021 had little time to celebrate before tipping off in another national tournament. The Big Shots Elite national tournament welcomes more than 200 teams and tips off Thursday at the Myrtle Beach Sports Center. Championship games will be held Sunday.

Photos by Janet Morgan/myhorrynews

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