The Pirates’ girls and boys basketball teams each celebrated their seniors while putting exclamation points on their Region 2-6A regular season schedules Friday with wins over their Effingham County counterparts at Brunswick Square Garden.
Brunswick’s girls (13-10, 6-2) beat Effingham 60-29 to capture the second seed in the girls bracket. The Brunswick boys (13-10, 6-2) won 47-38, which combined with Richmond Hill’s loss against Bradwell Institute, secured the No. 1 seed and the hosting rights for the tournament.
Cheers erupted from around the arena after the game as fans, coaches, and players followed along with the final moments of the Tigers’ victory against the Wildcats, but the most exuberance of the night could be felt as the girls contest wound down.
Brunswick dominated the first three quarters of play, holding Effingham under the double-digit mark in scoring each period as it built a 41-19 advantage going into the fourth.
“We just wanted to have a good effort to send our seniors out with a bang,” said girls head coach Maria Mangram. “We have four seniors, one didn’t play tonight, but defensively they did well. They stole the ball, they actually gave the ball to the open man, we just played well as a team.
“For it to be a region win, and a good, defensive region win, that’s always a good thing.”
With the contest firmly in hand, the Pirates turned to the bench to get a few dedicated workers some time on the court, including senior Adamariz Santiago, a migrant student that moved to Brunswick from Mexico midway through last school year.
After spending some time with the junior varsity squad, Santiago became eligible for varsity in January, and she made her first appearance in a game Friday.
The Brunswick players on the court did their best to feed the ball to Santiago whenever possible, while the players on the bench went wild with every shot attempt.
“She works so hard, loves basketball, loves it, loves it, loves it,” Mangram said. “She came to every meeting we had. Every time we had conditioning or something, she was there…
“Because she was just so adamant about coming and wanting to be a part, we kept her. We try to get everybody to score, if they can, and she scores in practice all the time. Today when I told her she was going to dress with the varsity, she looked at me and said, ‘What?’ She was so scared, but she did well.”
As the clocked ticked under a minute, Santiago was rewarded for her hard work and dedication when she banked in a layup in transition for the first points of her high school career, igniting both the bench and crowd.
Boys coach Chris Turner also gave some seniors a chance to shine in the region regular season finale, beginning the game with a lineup of fourth-year players — most normally reserves.
The Pirate seniors proved their coach’s belief in them correct, winning the first period 8-7.
“We wanted to try to give the seniors a chance,” Turner said. “And they did a good job. They hung in there. They won the first quarter, so I’m proud of those guys.”
Brunswick ultimately went into halftime tied with Effingham, but it opened up the third quarter on a 7-0 run and never looked back. The lead swelled to as many as 13 in the fourth quarter for the Pirates, led by a 10-point, 11-rebound, six-block performance by freshman Joyful Hawkins.
It was a big night for a Pirates team that entered the game having loss its last four contests. Aside from snapping the streak and locking in the No. 1 seed in the region tournament, Brunswick saw senior Kelan Walker have the cast removed from his injured hand.
Walker will look to practice for the first time Monday, which could be a boon for a team that suffered its only two region defeats by a combined five points.
“We’re just a couple of possessions away from being undefeated,” Turner said. “It literally could have went either way, so our goal is to try to keep getting better as we go into the main part of our season, which is the region tournament, and then hopefully get a chance to get a good path to go into the state tournament.”