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Marlboro County High School
Bennettsville

Bulldogs making steady progress in Brace’s second season

 

By David Shelton

Senior Writer

Bennettsville – The old adage, “you have to learn to crawl before you can walk,” are words to live by for Marlboro County boys basketball coach Troy Brace.

Brace is in the middle of his second season as head of the Bulldogs’ program. His first season resulted in a handful of victories but also earned them a playoff spot. The postseason ended quickly for Marlboro County as they dropped a first-round game to Berkeley but Brace came away from that final game feeling good about the prospects for year two.

This year’s team has evolved from the crawling stages and is now walking, if not running, into region play. Marlboro County was 7-10 overall and 1-2 in region 6-AAAA play as of January 15th. Brace is pleased overall with the way his team is progressing.

“This is about where I thought we would be, considering the level of experience we had when the season started,” Brace said. “We started the season fairly young. We are still working hard to develop each player. We probably could have had a few more wins but I’m not disappointed. We have hard-working kids, really good kids. They are putting in the work and they have been very coachable. Sometimes the youth shows up in a negative way on the floor but I realize that’s part of growing. We’re on the right track to do good things in the future.”

This year’s roster has only two seniors and three juniors, which means Brace is getting a lot of playing time for players who should be in the program for the next several years.

The senior leaders this season are Damien Bruce and Rictavius McInnis. Bruce currently leads the team in scoring at 11.5 points per game. McInnis excels on the defensive end.

“Damien has expanded his role offensively this year,” Brace said. “We didn’t need him as a scorer as much last year but he has improved a lot. He has come a long way in terms of developing his game.”

The team’s tthree juniors are playing pivotal roles. Wesley Brown, Jamiek McCoy and Ryan Dupree saw significant playing time last season and that experience has helped this season. Dupree is averaging 10.1 points per game while Brown adds nearly eight points per game. McCoy has been good for 7.1 points per game. Skishawn Palmer is another junior that comes off the bench.

“They are a strong foundation for what we want to be next year,” Brace said.

Brace started this season with a handful of freshmen on the varsity, mixed in with sophomores and the veteran players. Those underclassmen have recently been playing a lot of minutes with the junior varsity team.

Sophomores Von Oliver, Sean Lucas and Dreveon Scott, along with freshmen Kieran Leviner, Pedro Davila, Keon Adams and Quatrice Bostic are future varsity talents that will progress through the program.

The Bulldogs compete in one of the toughest AAAA regions in the state. Region 6-AAAA includes Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach, Wilson, Hartsville and Darlington. Early on, Marlboro County lost to Hartsville by seven and to Myrtle Beach by four, but notched a region win over North Myrtle Beach.

Even in close losses, Brace sees that his team is gaining confidence and also gaining an understanding of what it takes to play with the top teams.

“I expect to win everytime we walk on the floor and I try to give my kids that belief, that we can win,” the coach said. “We’ve been very competitive and our kids are starting to realize they can play with any team on our schedule. It’s a very tough league but if we can play to our potential every night, we can compete within our region.”

The Marlboro County girls team is 8-7 overall but 0-3 in region play. Sophomore Jasmine Norman is leading the team in scoring at 18.5 points per game. Eighth-grader Tysonia Lowe is averaging 13 points while junior Shaniya Oliver adds 9.8 points per game.

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