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Rebels boys (2-1) and girls (3-0) enjoy winning ways

  • Photo courtesy Thomas Heyward Academy Coach Bob Layman led Thomas Heyward to a 2-0 start to the basketball season.
  • Photo courtesy Thomas Heyward Academy Matt Malphrus drives hard to the basket for Thomas Heyward.
  • Photo courtesy Thomas Heyward Academy Alayna DeLong scored 25 points in two games to help lead the Rebels’ girls to a 2-0 start.

The Rebels have started strong. Thomas Heyward’s boys and girls basketball teams each began the season 2-0 with convincing wins last week. The girls won Tuesday night and the boys lost.

The boys won their opener 70-35 over Faith Christian on Nov. 17. THA was led by 15 points each from Bruzza Pusha and Matt Malphrus. Dalton Steedley had 9 points and Zack Black added 8 points.

On Nov. 20, Thomas Heyward beat visiting Coastal Home School 44-37. Black, Malphrus and Bryce Tillotson each had 9 points. THA held the Coastal Hurricanes’ leading scorer Brett Collins to 17 points. He’d been averaging 26 points per game, according to MaxPreps. THA coach Bob Layman said Steedley and Black provided an effective box-and-1 defense.

Layman’s excited about the Rebels’ quickness and depth. Thomas Heyward uses a steady 12-man rotation that Layman expects to continue because each player brings value. He said starting spots are earned during practice.

The team’s hybrid motion offense spreads the court and keeps the ball moving, which Layman thinks keeps the players engaged.

“Nobody’s standing still,” he said.

The roster, which also includes Bobby Payne, Joe Gibson, Trace Lowther, Johnny Brendlen, Roman Padgett, Owen White, J.R. Patterson and Logan Thomas (likely out for the season after leg surgery), plays aggressive man-to-man defense that forces turnovers that lead to transition points.

“We thrive on (opponents) making mistakes,” Layman said.

The defense held Coastal’s Collins in check thanks to the box-and-1 for 3½ quarters.

“We were doing our job denying the ball, shutting down passing lanes,” Layman said.

The quick unbeaten start is encouraging, but Layman hopes the team will improve once it has more practice time. Because the football season ended days before the regular season — and 10 players played football — THA only had three practices before its first game. And there are eight new players overall.

Practice time is essential, Layman said. “You win games in practice,” he said.

The team lost 73-64 at Andrew Jackson on Tuesday. Zack Black and Bruzza Pusha each had 16 points. Black added eight rebounds.

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Girls win twice

Thomas Heyward’s girls began their season with a 42-19 home win against Faith Christian. Alayna DeLong led THA with 15 points and Ivy Bryan added 10 points. Other scorers were Bayli Belger with 6, Chelsea Schroeder 5, Olivia Pace 4 and Emma Richardson 2.

Bryan’s 24 points led the team to a 42-31 home win over Coastal Home School. DeLong added 10 points. Belger had 3 points; Gabby Boyles and Chelsea Schroeder had 2 points each and Olivia Pace had 1 point.

“We like the way they are hustling,” assistant Roy Pryor said.

The team began the season with Bryan, Belger and Pace at guard with DeLong and Schroeder inside. Boyles has provided a spark off the bench.

The roster also includes Victoria Standard, Chloe Walker, Kindall Smith, Skylar Pope, and Karleigh Edmonson.

“We are feeling our way, it’s early,” Pryor said.

The Rebels have started well thanks to a tough defense.

THA pressures the ball and then drops into a zone. They’ll sometimes go fullcourt man-to-man.

“We pressure the ball a lot,” Pryor said.

THA’s girls won at Andrew Jackson 40-12 on Tuesday to improve to 3-0. Ivy Bryan led THA with 15 points and Bayli Belger added 14. Alayna DeLong scored 4 points, Chelsea Schroeder had 3 points, Skylar Pope and Karleigh Edmonson each had 2 points.

Thomas Heyward’s teams visit Holly Hill on Thursday and host The Habersham School on Friday.

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