AIKEN - Reggie Middleton is quick to recognize the ever-expanding target across the backs of his unbeaten Glenn Hills squad.
But on Wednesday, the 6-foot guard turned in one of his most impressive performances of the season, scoring early and often to squelch any chance Barnwell had to take down a smoking-hot Spartans bunch.
"It's always important to set the tone," Middleton said. "When we see everyone on our team hyped up, we can usually come out strong and get ahead."
The Spartans did just that, getting out to a sizeable lead on the heels of Middleton's 14 first-quarter points and cruising to an 85-44 victory over the Warhorses in the first round of the United Energy Holiday Classic at Aiken High School.
From the outset, Barnwell coach Mike Highsmith identified the personnel problems facing his team.
"They have a lot of speed and a lot of size, and we just aren't quite as physical a team," Highsmith said.
While the first quarter saw the Glenn Hills starting lineup grab the upper hand, the remainder of the contest featured an array of Spartans contributing to the effort.
Guard Desmond Wells came off the bench to notch 11 points, thanks to a hot hand from the perimeter.
"This was just a really good team effort," Wells said. "All of these tournaments are important because they get us ready for region and for the state tournament."
The Warhorses (4-3) were led by 18 points from Heaven Childs but couldn't seem to find their offense early, scoring only 19 points to the Spartans' 51 during the first half. But their shooting heated up after halftime, as they matched the Spartans' total of six 3-pointers on the afternoon.
But Glenn Hills fended off any comeback with a strong third-quarter effort, finishing the stanza with a 70-33 advantage.
Thirteen players scored for the Spartans, who improved their record to 11-0 heading into a second-round matchup at 5:30 p.m. today against Dutch Fork.
Spartans coach Richard Wallace pointed out the importance of his team's quickness on defense. He said the Spartans' "sneaky speed" helps create havoc on the defensive end, leading to easy points in transition.