Sam Laydon didn’t want it to be over.
Friday could’ve been the last one — the senior’s last home game. He was prepared for the possibility. So he soaked it all in — he made sure to — every moment, every basket, every glide up and down the floor.
A television station was there broadcasting the game live. Laydon entertained. He celebrated each three-pointer. He wagged his tongue. He fanned his arms through the air to incite a student section that lined the baseline 15 rows tall. Wando calls its student section the Chop House. It’s infamous. On the right night, it can be one of the wildest you’ll find. A homemade sign read “Have no fear, #11 is here.” That’s Laydon. He’s number 11. A senior captain. A fan favorite. He didn’t want to say goodbye yet.
“Ayeee,” he let out at the end of the night to whoever was within shouting range. “We’re staying home.”
Wando earned a share of the Region 7-AAAAA championship with a 56-41 win over James Island in the Warriors’ regular-season finale on Friday. The win secures a home game for the Warriors in the opening round of the upcoming state playoffs. Wando hasn’t hosted a first-round playoff game since 2014 (when the Warriors won their only state championship).
“We knew something big was at stake,” Wando coach Chris Warzynski said. “Some of our older guys, our seniors, you could tell they didn’t want this to be their last time playing here at home.”
Wando was in control from the opening tip. Laydon opened the scoring with a three out of the corner. 3-0. Warriors senior Tyrese Williams followed with another from the same spot about a minute later. 6-0. Laydon then buried another from the opposite wing soon after. 9-0. James Island ended the shutout with a putback layup nearly three minutes into the game. Williams answered seconds later with another three that pried open a 12-2 Warriors advantage.
“Pedal to the metal. All of a sudden, you’re up 10,” Warzynski said. “It felt like the game had just started.”
Energy flowed through the Warriors, offense into defense, back again and so on. Warriors center Jackson Lewandowski emphatically swatted two blocks in the first quarter. Wando scored after both of them.
James Island junior Bailey Wiseman is one of the craftiest scorers around. He leads the Trojans with 17 points per game and holds at least one Division I offer. Wando seniors McCrady Andrews, Chance Caldwell and Marquis Whitten each took a turn guarding him. Wiseman finished with six points. James Island’s offense sputtered alongside as it searched elsewhere.
“You’re looking at possibly the Player of the Year in the region,” Warzynski explained. “I can’t say enough about the job they did on him. It changed the game.”
Wando led 19-7 at the end of the first quarter and 26-13 by halftime. James Island trimmed the gap to eight points midway through the third quarter. Davis Egloff buried a three out of a timeout — just his second three-pointer of the season — and Laydon followed soon after with another a few feet behind the line.
James Island again pulled within eight in the fourth quarter. Wando responded this time with a run of 10 unanswered points that was lit by four straight forced turnovers. Andrews finished consecutive layups during the rally. Charlie DeLongchamps entered off the bench a couple minutes into the quarter. He reeled off a quick seven-point spurt in two minutes that alone was a season-high for the senior wing. He buried all three attempts — a floater, a midrange shot and a timely three that pushed Wando back in control.
Wando shot 63 percent as a team. The Warriors hit 10 three-pointers, shooting 59 percent from beyond the arc. All were season-highs. Laydon finished with a game-best 14 points. McCrady scored 12.
Wando’s win and Goose Creek’s 65-59 loss to Stratford left the Warriors and Gators even at 7-3 in region play. Wando and Goose Creek split their two meetings this season. Region 7 next employs a points system to determine playoff seeding. Goose Creek’s two wins over third-place James Island gave the Gators the edge in total points over the Warriors, who split with the Trojans.
Goose Creek, as the top seed out of Region 7, will host St. James when the state playoffs begin on Wednesday. The second-seeded Warriors will be at home too, hosting Carolina Forest. James Island will travel to West Florence and Stratford will visit Conway.
Wando began the season with just three wins through its first 15 games. Now the Warriors are hosting in the playoffs. It’s all reason enough for a senior to yell about having at least one more home game as he jogs through an emptying gym.
Laydon was one of the last to emerge from the locker room after the game. His father, Matthew, waited for his son in the lobby. He had with him two gift bags and a collage of photos on a poster board. He seemed reflective as he waited.
“It’s almost over,” Matthew said of his son’s waning high school career.
“Not yet though,” he continued with a smile. “We’ll see you here next week.”