It’s a Friday afternoon at Goose Creek High School and the final bell rings.
As most of the students head for the exits, members of the Goose Creek boys basketball team make their way to Blake Hall’s classroom for study hall. Once the school work is completed, the players watch a basketball-related movie and enjoy a meal with Hall, the Gators’ head coach.
“We have some food,” said junior Chris Singleton said. “It’s usually lasagna. Coach Hall said it’s good for us.”
After a walk-through and shoot-around, it’s finally time for the game. With no distractions and total focus, the team usually comes out on top.
The Gators have used the pregame ritual to post a 21-4 record and reach tonight’s Class AAAA Lower State championship. Goose Creek plays Sumter at 8:30 p.m. at the Florence Civic Center.
“The routine works. It really does,” Singleton said. “There are no distractions. Once we head to the gym, we get situated and get the nerves out. I wouldn’t change a thing.”
Hall is the third coach in three years at Goose Creek. Former coach Brad Dobbels led the team to a state title in 2009. He left after 2011 to take a coaching job at Charleston Southern, and Bruce Walls served as the interim coach last season.
Hall spent last season as the coach at North Charleston. It was his first season as a head coach, and he led the Cougars to the Class AA state championship. He couldn’t resist when Goose Creek school officials offered him the job.
He preaches two things: unity and unselfishness.
“(Former UCLA coach) John Wooden once said ‘It’s amazing what can be accomplished when no one gets the credit.’ ” Hall said. “That sums up this group. They don’t care who scores, who gets the credit. They just want to go out there and see what they can come up with.”
Senior Shaquille Patrick said playing for three coaches in three years was difficult.
“But we stuck together and worked together,” Patrick said. “I bought into coach Hall from Day 1. All we had to do was stay focused and work together. All three coaches are great, but coach Hall takes it one step further.”
The 30-year-old Hall is a Moncks Corner native who played at Pinewood Prep under Pat Eidson. He played at Coker College and went on to play professionally in Europe. He spent two seasons as a graduate assistant at The Citadel under Ed Conroy and Chuck Driesell.
“Sure I love to win, but the most important thing is the kids have to believe I have their best interests at heart,” Hall said. “Sure I want them to be successful on the court, but I want them to become gentlemen who succeed in life. I am a teacher, and I want to teach them to be successful.”
Goose Creek is one of two local teams still alive in the High School League playoffs.
The other team is the Bishop England girls. The Bishops play Kingstree at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Florence Civic Center. The Bishops went 28-0 and won the Class AA state championship last winter. They are 22-3 and enter with a 15-game winning streak.
The Kingstree students and community are still mourning the death of coach Sonya Burgess, who was killed in an apparent hit-and-run wreck Monday night.
The school decided to let the team play Tuesday night and the Jaguars beat Lake City to advance to the Lower State championship against Bishop England.
Her funeral is scheduled for Sunday.
Follow Philip M. Bowman on Twitter: @PandCPhil
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