Monday, December 2, 2013
It was a statement week for the Wando Warriors as they stormed through the Military Magnet Thanksgiving Classic on their way to their way to winning the tournament championship.
Wando (3-0) outscored its opening-round opponents by a combined 152-88 before defeating perennial SCISA power Pinewood Prep 55-50 in Saturday’s championship round.
Sophomore forward Jamez Rogers claimed MVP honors, averaging 17 points through the three-game tournament, including a 19-point effort against Pinewood. Junior forward Taylor Majewski averaged 13 per game and contributed defensively and on the boards to earn an All-Tournament nod.
“I’m really not surprised by what we were able to do because our team knows what they’re capable of,” Wando head coach David Eaton said. “The best part about it is that we showed a willingness to win. Sometimes the most talented teams don’t have that willingness to win when the going gets tough, but I think we showed (against Pinewood) that we have that.”
Pinewood pushed Wando throughout the championship game, using the speed of their smaller guards to counter the size of the Warriors. While Pinewood’s shooters stayed hot, Rogers paced Wando with 19 points. The Warriors trimmed Pinewood’s two-point halftime lead down to a tie game entering the fourth quarter when center 6-foot-10 center Matt Pegram took over. Pegram had his best game of the tournament with 14 points, capped by an emphatic dunk with under a minute to play that sealed the game.
“He just kind of took the game over,” Eaton said. “He and Jamez were just relentless, driving to the basket and rebounding.
“We work our big guys really hard in practice, guarding our guards. (Pinewood) was hot, but we just kept playing defense and started to do a good job of penetrating and wearing them down on the inside offensively.”
Garrett Tech and Greenville Tech couldn’t put up much of a challenge for Wando in the opening rounds as the Warriors rang up the points early before smothering them with their defense in the second half. Wando led by 18 heading into halftime against Garrett and then exploded with a 22-0 run to start the third quarter. Against Greenville, the Warriors led by 17 at the half and went on to win the second half 40-25. Wando’s bench turned in major minutes in both games and was able to maintain the high level of play the starters set in both games.
“We can bring so many different players and then wear teams down with our size and strength,” Eaton said. “We have eight or nine guys who could all start. When we bring somebody else in, they have no problem doing the same job as the guy ahead of them.”
Any doubts about the Warriors should be solved Tuesday if Wando can carry its success into its home opener against the rival Summerville Green Wave. Summerville entered the season ranked No. 7 in Class 4A by the S.C. Basketball Coaches Association, while Wando was left out of the preseason poll. (The paper went to press before this game took place.)
“I think winning this championship gives our team a lot confidence moving forward,” Eaton said.
“Summerville is always a well-coached team that you can’t come out and make a lot of mistakes against or they’ll make you pay for it. But we always expect to beat a team like that. Our guys know they’re ranked No. 7 and they expect to be in that type of position themselves. Our guys aren’t intimidated by that ranking at all and I think they know that if they want it, they have an opportunity to go take it Tuesday night.”