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Jay Abney flashed to the basket, grabbed a bounce pass from Dee Delaney on the wing and finished an easy layup Tuesday.
This was the routine for the Whale Branch Early College High School boys basketball team. Make a pass on the fast break and get it back in time for a layup. Deliver one more inside pass for an open basket. Find a teammate cutting to the rim.
Almost everything came easy for the Warriors, the top-ranked team in Class 1-A, as they rolled to a 71-47 home victory over Bethune-Bowman. Whale Branch improved to 13-2 and 3-0 in Region 5-A with a top-five matchup with Allendale-Fairfax looming Saturday.
Guard Simeon Middleton led Whale Branch with 18 points. Delaney added 17. Four Warriors finished in double figures.
"Hustle," Middleton said. "On defense, we stepped it up. A lot of deflections, steals and fast-break points."
The number of easy looks for the Warriors on offense allowed head coach Linc Lyles not to sweat the little stuff. And so when Delaney's dunk attempt rattled out, he drew little reaction from Lyles. The Warriors recovered those points quickly, anyway.
"If we see holes, I want them to go," Lyles said.
He wanted Whale Branch committed on defense, to generate the runs that would force Bethune-Bowman to burn timeouts. And defense was the topic in the classroom after the game.
Allendale-Fairfax is long, athletic and deep -- much like this Warriors team -- and Lyles wanted his team sharp on both ends Tuesday to prepare. The Mohawks played almost three minutes without a basket during the early part of the fourth quarter, and the Whale Branch advantage soared to 26.
The No. 1 ranking hasn't come up much among teammates, Middleton said. Everyone knows of it but is downplaying the significance.
The wins are more valuable. And Lyles didn't bank Tuesday's victory against struggling Bethune-Bowman, because the Mohawks had played a tough schedule and had not lost in four previous games with Whale Branch.
"We can be so much better," Lyles said. "I want us to control the boards. I think that will get us to the point where then it's hard to beat us."
Bethune-Bowman dealt the Warriors their most recent home loss -- last February. And so Lyles, who substituted liberally during the first half, left his starting five on the floor together longer during the second half than he might have otherwise, just to make sure.
He had little reason to worry. The Warriors made it look easy.
Whale Branch boys 71, Bethune-Bowman 47
Bethune-Bowman-- Trevon Berry 15, Carl Heyward 10, JaQuan Felder 8, Jawan Willis 6, Andrew Lee 5, Darius Anderson 3.
Whale Branch (13-2, 3-0 Region 5-A)-- Simeon Middleton 18, Dee Delaney 17, Jay Abney 13, Michael Middleton 12, Charles Jiles 7, Damian Brown 2, Denzel Daniel 2.
Whale Branch girls 59, Bethune-Bowman 15
The schedule will toughen from here, but this allowed the Whale Branch girls basketball team to ease into its Region 5-A schedule.
Bethune-Bowman, with a player lost to injury and another pulled by her coach after an altercation on the court, finished the final seven minutes of the game with only four players. A running clock during the second half helped limit the damage.
Warriors coach Wilbert Bryant wanted to use the game to work on his team's zone defense. Whale Branch pressed until its lead grew too large. And then Bryant emptied his bench.
The Warriors expect to move to 3-0 after hosting Allendale-Fairfax on Saturday, and then face a stiff test the next week against Denmark-Olar.
Bryant said the pieces are starting to fall in place and told his girls the region is open for the taking.
"I've got my five starters," he said. "Everybody knows their roles now."
Bethune-Bowman -- Keosha Simpson 5, Wykeria Jones 4, Twaneisha Mack 3, Ashley Montgomery 2, Feona Shuler 1.
Whale Branch (11-3, 2-0 Region 5-A)-- Kemoni Jenkins 21, S'Nitra Mack 10, Kenyada Moultrie 9, Sharrin Reed 9, Ruth Thompson 4, Dana Chapel 2, Rivers 2, Riley 2.