PROSPERITY — Playoffs, in a sense, start tonight for the Mid-Carolina High School Rebels with a game against Saluda. Though not an elimination game, the game against the Tigers determines match-ups for the playoffs since the winner wins the third seed in the region.
With just three players returning from last season, coaches picked MCHS to be fifth or sixth in the region but head coach Emmanuel Dewalt felt like his team could turn some heads. He played a tough non-conference schedule with games against Union, Chapin (twice), Gilbert, Brookland-Cayce and Swansea.
With the exception of three games, he said his Rebels have been right in the thick of things. Seven or eight of the team’s 15 losses, he said, came down to one or two possessions making the difference. Three losses came in overtime.
“We won some and lost some but we learned and grew from it,” he said. “It was good preparation for the playoffs and going into our offseason.”
With three seniors this year he will return a lot of players but the region changes in 2014-15 to include Eau Claire, Pelion, Keenan, Columbia, Fairfield Central and Newberry.
He is looking for this season and this group right now and has had a consistent line-up with players who embraced their roles.
Dominique Wheeler, a transfer this year to MCHS, is who Dewalt calls his best on the ball defender and a speedy, talented athlete. As his comfort level grew with the system, the team began to improve.
Wing player Danton Hyman, a pre-season all region player is the team’s second leading scorer with 15 points per game and six assists. He is a good spot up shooter with a knack for getting to the free throw line.
Zach Heller is a junior who played jayvee last season. His long wingspan and leaping ability are his best assets helping him average about 12 points and seven rebounds per game. He is best at attacking the basket and playing both ends of the floor on defense and on the boards.
Zach Parker was a preseason all region pick who plays out of position in the low post out of necessity, but Dewalt said he is more of a three player. He averaged 23 points per game in region play, he said.
Center Dante Boyd brings a football player mentality and a bench press of over 300 pounds to the gym. Not only is he a tough, smart player, but Dewalt said he is an honor student, on student council and a vocal team leader.
“We expect a lot from him in the future,” he said.
Dewalt said he is still developing depth in his program. Junior Isaiah Williams is in his first year on varsity and is a good shooter. Senior Ben Chandler brings energy and toughness off the bench.
“He is undersized but he helps us down low due to his football player build,” Dewalt said.
Hunter Berry is the team’s three-point specialist.
Drew Senn is a 6’5” project with raw talent and a knack for blocking shots. Two other athletes Dewalt is counting on for a playoff run are Trey Green, the starting quarterback for the Rebels and a track star and Jamie Murillo, a gifted player.
The Rebels run a basic motion offense with some set plays sprinkled in.
Though one player has a high scoring average, Dewalt wants all his guys to get touches because any player could erupt for a big night.
On defense they play man-to-man but mix in zone a lot.
He likes to look back door on offense and to use his guards’ speed advantage to run and gun.Dewalt wants his players to attack the basket and get to the free throw line.They attack first and then work inside out for the three point looks.
With that combination and a little luck, he hopes to advance in the playoffs and build upon the foundation these players are setting as he continues to elevate Mid-Carolina basketball.