"Bumblebee" and "Cupcake" are a fine tag team this year at Richmond Academy. The players behind those nicknames led ARC to its first region title in six years last weekend.
Now the real test awaits. The boys' brackets of the Georgia High School Association state basketball tournament tip off around the area tonight.
Loce Hill and Trevor Welcher already have quite a pair of nicknames. The end result of the Class AAAA Tournament will determine whether or not they can also be called champions.
The senior duo is more valuable to their team than any other two players in the area.
Hill is 5-foot-11 and does everything. He is Richmond Academy's top rebounder and the backup point guard. Hill takes his 175-pound frame and succeeds in the paint. If he was three inches taller, he'd still be at a disadvantage in the post.
Life gave him an easy excuse to avoid playing with his back to the basket. Hill never took it.
"He has no business being successful against big guys," Richmond Academy coach Steve Nobles said.
"He just knows how to do it. I can't explain it. He's got a pretty quick first step, but he couldn't dunk to save his life."
Hill's hands are like a vise grip. He squeezes the ball like he wants to flatten it. Then he summons the will to make sure no one stands between him and two points.
That's the "Bumblebee" way.
"A bumblebee isn't supposed to fly," Nobles said. "But it flies. He's not supposed to do what he does but he does it. ... My daddy used to say God didn't put a bumblebee on the earth to fly. But they flap those wings and find a way to do it. That's what Loce does."
Volunteer assistant coach Shaun Bradley said Hill has a physique that "belongs to a 53-year-old man." Hill still averages 18 points, eight rebounds and five assists per game.
"It comes from playing against good competition at the (YMCA) and stuff," he said. "I've been going against good big guys like Jacob Ross that played here since the ninth grade. I'm used to it. I know I'm small. But I'm used to finding a way around all that."
If Hill is the Jeep that climbs over any on-court terrain, then Welcher is the sports car.
Welcher has averaged 20 points and six assists per game across his prep career. At 5-foot-10 and 160 pounds, he's as quick to take an open shot as he is to fling the ball to an open teammate.
Former Richmond Academy junior varsity coach Paul Martin called him "Cupcake" years ago. Nobles still uses it. It's not meant as a slight.
"I called him 'Cupcake' because in practice and games Trevor makes it all look easy," Martin said, who's now an assistant principal at Strom Thurmond. "Like eating a cupcake. Easy. Or a piece of cake. Anything we asked him to accomplish he could."
That's just the frosting on top of another meaning.
"He also had a smaller frame then," Martin added. "But he had all the right ingredients to be something big. Bigger than what he was. Like a cupcake has all the ingredients to be a cake."
There is an able-bodies team around them. Senior Jacob Sullivan is playing with an intensity he's never shown before. Junior Corey Bynes is active on the boards. Guard Colbie King can score 25 points on a given night. Stevie Berry is now a solid starter at the post.
"But they all know who we rely upon," Nobles said. "They know."
Nobles said Richmond Academy (19-9) might have won 10 games if it played without its two leading men this season.
Their teamwork goes back to an area championship at Langford Middle School. They spent this summer traveling the country on their Amateur Athletic Union team.
"I always know I can count on Loce," Welcher said, who committed to Delaware State.
"I call him my little big man. We've got something that only years together can build. ... We can come to each other on the court and I can just give him a look. He knows exactly what I am thinking. It's the chemistry we have. It's real special when you have something like that with a teammate on the court."