Class A Boys State Championship Whale Branch vs. Lewisville

Lewisville hopes journey from bottom ends on top

bbyers@heraldonline.comMarch 2, 2013 

  • Want to go?


    WHO: Whale Branch vs. Lewisville

    WHERE: Colonial Life Arena, Columbia

    WHEN: 12:30 p.m.

    ADMISSION: $10 for all games, children 5-and-under are free


— The boys basketball teams at Lewisville and Whale Branch are similar in the way they score points.

Both prefer the quick pace, getting the ball on defense and running it up the floor of offense. But much as like they are, they do it with different styles.

Lewisville plays Whale Branch at Colonial Life Arena in Columbia at 12:30 p.m. today for the Class A state championship.

Whale Branch is a deep squad, aided by the arrival of three players coach Linc Lyles didn’t know much about. Lyles is not shy on pulling the trigger and bringing on several players to give his Warriors starters a rest.

At Lewisville, coach Larry Davis runs, too. But unlike flying down the floor and putting up a shot as soon as possible, he prefers putting his game in gear in the backcourt. The Lions use a three-guard offense.

The goal is to cut off the passing lanes, force a turnover our front and send his guards speeding to the other end, holding off shooting and waiting for the easy basket.

And no, it’s not a half-court or slow down game. The Lions have averaged more than 70 points in their playoff games.

It took an 0-6 start to get the Lions on his page, but Davis led Lewisville to the Region 3-A championship. And most fans look at the seven losses for a championship game more than they do the impressive 20 wins.

That changes when the facts are known. Since the bad start, Lewisville is 20-1.

“When you consider we lost our first six games and have only lost one since, then you can see how the momentum of buying in to what coach Davis kept telling us paid off,” Walls said earlier this week. “Coach Davis drove the concept of defense first to the point of preaching it to get all of us on the same page.

“He has shown us that strong defense can produce easy offense. He said we are the top defensive team in Class A and we’re not about to doubt him, as far as we’ve come.”

Wall’s is Lewisville’s top player on a team that uses mostly five starters, all fairly even in stats. But scoring is not first on his mind. It’s making the defensive stop, then making sure the shot is a good one for one of the Lions.

It’s an offense similar to the one Davis played on at South Carolina in the three-guard system that included BJ McKie and South Point coach Melvin Watkins. The difference is Davis was a prolific 3-point shooter out of Denmark-Olar High School.

Whale Branch (24-3) was one the favorites coming out of the Lowcountry. And that was before the three new players arrived.

Freshman Justin Rhode contributed right away after moving from Greenwood before the school year. He broke out in the playoffs with a 20-point second-round game against Timmonsville.

A broken foot kept Rhode from contributing more of the season.

“Our goal for him is to become a complete player,” Lyles said. “He’s already brought an almost complete game when he got here.”

Rhode’s, father, is a former prep standout in Washington, D.C. His older brother, Javarus, coaches the Warriors. His mom, Audrey, is a former college athlete who teaches at Whale Branch and coaches volleyball.

Daniel Smith moved back to the Beaufort area from Michigan, where he was born. Lyles thinks Daniel might one day be a small forward, but he proved a natural fit in the post and has quietly emerged as one of the team’s most reliable players and a double-double threat.

“You can yell at him and get on him and he’s fine; you can brag on him a little bit and he’s fine,” Lyles said. “I wanted him to fit in, and he’s done more than fit in.”

Nyuan Gumbs-Smith moved from Charlotte during his sophomore year but could not play basketball due to an issue with his transcripts not transferring correctly, he said, which was corrected in time for the 2012 track season. He practiced with the Warriors basketball team last season, but could not play.

He started some games in the post early this season but missed several games due to illness, has been working his way back and now has a chance to contribute in the title game.

All three will likely start.

Lewisville (16-11) has made it this far with a talented coach and a group of players’ who punch in before every game and go to work.

“They better do it or they will be sitting beside me on the bench,” Lewisville coach Larry Davis said. “But that’s not a problem for this team. We have some very determined guys and they have learned into our system the last two years.”

The other four starters besides Walls are Mardarius Bailey, a 5-6 point guard and Drea Bailey, another 5-6 guard. The last spot goes to who Davis needs most: 6-0 guard Kale Worthy or forward 6-0 Obbie Sarduay.

“I’m going to be upset,” Walls said. “We’ve come so far from being so low, winning is the only thing left for us to do.”

Stephen Fastenau from The Beaufort Gazette contributed to this story.

Barry Byers 329-4099

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