Line up for high school basketball’s ‘Weekend of Champions’ is set, by Tyler Cupp
Tyler Cupp has contributed to ESPN radio and multiple other stations in Columbia covering High School and state sports in SC.Since 2007. Tyler has covered State Championships and Tournaments in SC for wrestling, baseball, basketball, softball, and football. He is the play by play voice of the Lugoff-Elgin Demons for WPUB radio in Kershaw County.
The South Carolina high school league’s ‘Weekend of Champions’ is finally set. This Friday and Saturday at Colonial Life Arena in Columbia, 20 basketball teams will compete for a chance to named state champion. I caught and even covered some of the action this past weekend, so here is a look ahead with some thoughts and numbers. The full schedule is posted at the bottom.
Irmo shocks Blythewood at the buzzer.
An inbounds play with a back door cut to the basket at the buzzer gave Irmo a victory over Blythewood in the Lower State title game at the Florence Civic Center Saturday. Blythewood was heavily favored throughout this season. And they were a team expected to contend for a state title, but Hasuan Rivers finished off a second half Jacket rally with a layup for the win. It’s been a wild season for Irmo, considering at one point in the season they weren’t even sure if they would make the season. After seven region games they were only 2-5. Irmo is now back in the state title game for the first time since 2016 and will take on defending champ Dorman. Coach Tim Whipple of Irmo is coaching his 10th state title game with a record of 5 wins and 4 losses. Another interesting note from this game is that Whipple is a sort of mentor to Dorman coach Thomas Ryan. They are very familiar with one another.
The Ridge View Blazers are back in the state title game for the first time since 2011 as they defeated South Aiken 60-47 in Greenville Friday. This was my first time seeing the Blazers and I have to say I was really impressed. They are so incredibly balanced and dynamic offensively. Wayln Napper at guard can do a lot of things while Malcolm Wilson might be one of the areas best Juniors. Wilson stands at 6’10 and averages 7 blocked shots per game. The Blazers get out and run and play good fundamental basketball. Ridge View will have a tough task in taming Wilson this Saturday. The Tigers are extremely athletic but this game will be one of the best to watch I think.
The North Augusta Yellow Jackets took care of the Westwood Lady Redhawks Friday 58-32. Westwood had a great season, but they had no answer for the buzz saw of talent in North Augusta. Maybe one of my favorite players I’ve seen this year was 4A Player of the Year Amari Young. She averages a double double per game and really leads this team well. This is one of the best girls basketball teams in recent memory. In fact, their lone loss is not even from a team in this state. They won 31 consecutive games before winning the state title in 2017. The Lady Jackets are going for back to back titles and has appeared in three straight in CLA.
Their were 2 buzzer beaters this past weekend as Ridge Spring Monetta got a tip in at the buzzer to get past Lewisville in Greenville. It’s the first title appearance for the Trojans since 1955. And back then, they weren’t even called state championships, they were called Crowns. And they went in letters like A, B, and C in terms of classifications. That’s how long its been. So congrats to them. Hard not to pull for that group. They will have a tough match up as they take on a Hemingway team that has appeared in the previous 2 championship games, including a win last year.
Gray Collegiate could be destined
The only team that has stood in the way of Gray Collegiate in the last 3 years has been their region rival in Keenan. Behind top prospect Juwan Gary, the War Eagles held off a late rally by those Raiders of Keenan to punch their ticket to the state title game. This is the first in program history. I personally think Gray Collegiate might be one of the best teams in the entire state, regardless of classification. Their size, athletic ability and perimeter game is just so lethal night in and night out. From Gary to Robinson, and Bruener they have true star power with guys producing at a high level. Gray Collegiate will take on Carvers Bay on Friday.
Hammond ends a drought
Last but certainly not least, the Hammond Lady Skyhawks ended a 25 year drought on Saturday winning the SCISA Class 3A Championship in girls basketball as they defeated Cardinal Newman. I was fortunate to call this one and what a win for that team. In the 42-31 win and the 11th in school history for the school. It was obviously a match up of two familiar teams with cross town rivals involved. The squads split the regular season series with this being the rubber match. Charleston Southern signee Ahlea Myers hit two big three pointers in the second half and led the Skyhawks with 14 points. In the loss for Cardinal Newman, Ashlyn Watkins had 11 points and over 10 rebounds. Remember that name as Watkins is only an eighth grader and has already had USC Women’s coach Dawn Staley attend her games. Could be a star to watch on down the road.
Spring Valley and Keenan girls are back again
The Lady Vikings rallied late to defeat Goose Creek and get back to the state title game.Spring Valley went back to back in 2015 and 2016. They also won in 2009 and 2011. But all those were behind Hall of Fame coach Anne Long. Its a new era in Spring Valley as Megan Assey will try to win her first with the school.
As for Keenan, the Lady Raiders are appearing in its 5th championship game since 2009. All under the watch of Reggie McClain. However, their most recent win came in 2013.
All games played at the Colonial Life Arena in Columbia, SC. Ticket and parking info below.
Friday, March 2
Class 2A Girls
3:30 p.m.: Keenan vs. Mullins
Class 2A Boys
5 p.m.: Gray Collegiate vs. Carvers Bay
Class 5A Girls
7 p.m.: Wade Hampton vs. Spring Valley
Class 5A Boys
8:30 p.m.: Dorman vs. Irmo
Saturday, March 3
Class 1A Girls
10:30 a.m.: Timmonsville vs. East Clarendon
Class 1A Boys
Noon: Ridge-Spring Monetta vs. Hemingway
Class 3A Girls
2 p.m.: Ridgeland-Hardeeville vs. Newberry
Class 3A Boys
3:30 p.m.: Ridgeland-Hardeeville vs. Southside
Class 4A Girls
5:30 p.m.: Wilson vs. North Augusta
Class 4A Boys
7 p.m.: Ridge View vs. Wilson
SC High School League basketball state championship games
▪ When: Friday, March 2 and Saturday, March 3 at Colonial Life Arena
▪ Where: Colonial Life Arena in Columbia, SC
▪ Tickets: $10 each day. Ages 5 and younger are free. Electronic tickets available online via GoFan.
▪ Parking: $10 per car
Rules to know
▪ Clear bag checks (clear bag policy in effect) and wanding metal detectors for all fans
▪ No signs or posters. No noise makers. No balls.
▪ No fans are allowed on the floor at the conclusion of contest.
▪ No flash photography during the game.
▪ No balloons are allowed in the arena. No powder.