Game 5  JAN 15 SAT 5:00 pm  Myrtle Beach, SC Seahawks vs. Toledo Start Spartans

By Dave Mast

What makes this contest an alluring one, aside from the fact that it pits one of the state’s top teams in Toledo Start against the South Carolina State champions, is that Myrtle Beach coach Brian Kiper is a former Triway Titans star. Kiper is looking forward to returning to his home area, and with him comes a team that returns four of its five starters from its championship team that went 29-1 last season. In all, he returns seven of his top eight players, and feels pretty good about his team as it prepares for an upgraded schedule this season, which he hopes will challenge his team even more.

“We’re not real big, our post player is only 5 (feet) 11 (inches), but we will play fast and push the ball up and down the floor,” said Kiper of his team. “Our expectations this season are extremely high. We didn’t play a tough enough schedule last season, so this year we really signed on to play some much better teams, and we know we’ll get to see a couple when we come up to Holmes County.”

Seahawks seniors D.J. Hunter, Shatia Cole and Keyaurna Wilson have all verbally committed to accept scholarship offers to play at Coastal Carolina University beginning in 2011. Wilson said that they are excited to be able to move on together, knowing that they will have each other to rely on, just as they do at Myrtle Beach. All three were hotly sought by a number of solid D-I programs, but chose to stay close to home and play together.

Khadijah Sessions, cousin of NBA guard Ramon Sessions of the Cleveland Cavaliers, brings plenty of excitement as the 5-foot-7 point
guard. Sessions has started every game in her career since the seventh grade (something South Carolina players are eligible to do as they can play six years of high school ball), and will zoom past the 2,000-career point mark this year if she stays healthy. Sophomore Tanisha Brown has already committed to the University of North Carolina, something that she did as an eighth-grader.

However, in Toledo Start, which finished up 16-4 last year, Kiper’s team will be squaring off against one of the most athletic D-I teams in the state of Ohio. Undoubtedly, the Spartans will be wanting to prove that Ohio hoops rule the roost in this one, providing a little more incentive to try to tackle the South Carolina champs.

Despite the transfer of point guard Charon Sweeney to Toledo Rogers, this team boasts a bountiful crop of talent. The loss of Sweeney was satiated somewhat by the arrival of hyper-athletic Ariel Gaston, a senior transfer from Sylvania Southview. She joins steady senior point guard Maleeka Kynard, who is bound for Ohio State University next year. In addition, 6-2 post player
Azia Bishop is a huge match-up problem for Myrtle Beach. She is headed to the University of Kentucky next season. Senior Keia McCarver and juniors Jaymie Jackson, who is being sought by Syracuse and Miami of Ohio, and 6-foot-4- inch classmate Ce’Dra Evans, who the University of Texas has been courting, help make the Spartans a tough foe for anyone.

“Toledo Start is a team that is absolutely loaded with talent, and is as athletic as any team in the state,” said Jenkins.