It definitely wasn't your typical Wilson Hall-Orangeburg Prep varsity girls basketball game.
Wilson Hall head coach Glen Rector is normally prepared for a tussle when his teams face off against those of legendary OP head coach Jan Stoudenmire, who has won over 800 games in her tenure with the Lady Indians program.
On Friday, however, it was the Lady Barons who scored the game's first 18 points and rolled to a 61-20 win over the uncharacteristically struggling Lady Indians at Nash Student Center in the SCISA Region II-3A opener for both teams.
"Our goal tonight was to play intense the entire game, because one thing we've struggled with this year is consistency on the intensity level," said Rector, whose team moved to 11-4 overall. "So our goal was to start from the very beginning with intensity, and defensively the girls were doing a nice job and we were making our baskets, so it was a good start. But Orangeburg Prep is a good team, they're well coached and they'll be back."
Natalie Jackson scored the first seven Wilson Hall points before Susannah Hutson came off the bench to score eight in the opening quarter, including two threes, as the Lady Barons held a 22-3 lead after the opening eight minutes. OP's only points of the first quarter came on a trey from Reagan Merritt, shortly after Mary Stack Summers came up short on two free throw attempts.
With points at such a premium for them early, the Lady Indians seemingly could not catch a break as a Joanna Hinds made free throw early in the second quarter was wiped off the board by a lane violation. OP's only basket of the quarter came on a free-throw line jumper by Marlee Robinson with 3:26 to go in the half as Wilson Hall took a 33-8 lead into the locker room.
Hutson added two more treys in the third quarter as the Lady Barons nearly shut out the Lady Indians, whose only points came on two Cierra Banks free throws with 14 seconds on the clock. The Wilson Hall lead was 47-10 heading to the fourth as Rector's reserves hit the floor for the final quarter.
Hutson closed with 16 while Jackson added 15 and Courtney Clark chipped in with nine to pace the Lady Barons.
"I think Natalie did a really nice job of taking the ball aggressively to the basket," Rector said. "Susannah has struggled a little bit from the 3-point shooting, so we wanted to give her a chance, a lot of time to get her shot down, and she was consistent tonight. Those were two good things we wanted to see as a team tonight, for Natalie and Courtney to be more aggressive on the inside and to see Susannah hit more outside shots."
Robinson scored eight to lead the Lady Indians, who dropped to 12-10 overall.
The importance of the win for Wilson Hall was magnified because a scheduling quirk has the Baron teams playing their first three region games at home then hitting the road for the second half of the 6-game slate.
"It was a good start to region play for us, and we're really hoping to continue that Tuesday night with Florence Christian and next Friday night with Laurence Manning," Rector said. "So we've got a really intense week of region games and our intensity level has got to be consistent as we go through the region."
The varsity boys game got off to a tepid start as OP held a 14-9 lead at the break, with the teams posting three points apiece in the second quarter. Then Grant DeVarona caught fire in the third quarter, hitting four consecutive threes for the Barons' first 12 points of the second half as Wilson Hall rallied for a 51-43 win.
The game was tied once, at 2-2, in the first half, before the Barons pulled even at 18-18 on DeVarona's third trey with 5:10 left in the third. Camron Ellis answered with a trey for OP, but DeVarona tied it once again moments later. Wilson Hall scored the next five points, on a Landon Van Patten 3-point play and a Chandler Scott bucket, before the Indians stormed back with a 7-2 run of their own to forge yet another tie. A Van Patten free throw with 34 seconds left would give the Barons a 29-28 lead heading into the final eight minutes.
The game would be tied a fifth and final time, at 31-31, after a Hunter McClain three with 7:17 to go, before the Barons pulled away down the stretch. The lead was one, 39-38, as Benjamin Davis hit from long range for OP, but the Barons would hold a 12-5 edge over the final three minutes to clinch the win.
DeVarona would add a fifth trey in the final quarter to close with 20 points, topping all scorers. Scott, who finished with seven, also hit from long range in the final quarter, with Daulton Dabbs hitting a trey in the opening quarter among his eight points.
McClain and Davis closed with 12 apiece for the Indians.