Upper and Lower State Preview, by Tyler Cupp
Even though the official Weekend of Champions featuring the state title games are a week away, that does not take away from the impact of Friday and Saturday in Florence. 20 games across two locations will showcase who has what it takes to play for a chance in the state championship. I will be in Greenville for Upper State where a slew of Midlands teams will be competing. In Florence, the Lexington Girls and Boys are both featured. Here is a quick preview of what you need to know coming up this weekend:
Upper State Championship
Bon Secours Wellness Arena-Greenville
2A GIRLS-Friday 4pm
LEE CENTRAL(20-7) VS CHRIST CHURCH(24-4)
The Lady Stallions from Bishopville have all kinds of size. They have four girls 5’10 or higher including a senior six footer in Nyasia Henry. Christ Church lost in the Upper State last year and seems to always make deep runs. Fifth straight Upper state title game for Christ Church. They are trying to make their seventh appearance in the state title game. As for Lee Central, they have not been to the big game since 2008. They won five of the eight state championships in 2A from 2001-08.
2A BOYS-Friday 5:30
SILVER BLUFF(17-5) VS ANDREW JACKSON(16-4)
Its been since 1980 that Andrew Jackson played for a state championship. The Volunteers have been on an improbable run this year. AJ played in a really tough division with Lee Central and North Central but got hot at the right time. The Bulldogs of Silver Bluff are always a sneaky good program in 2A. They bring with him quite the pedigree as one of their star players Latavian Lawrence (6’4 guard) is the kin of Dallas Cowboy Demarcus Lawrence. The last time the Bulldogs played for a state title was 2003. They were knocked out of the second round last year.
4A GIRLS-Friday 7pm
WESTWOOD(25-5) VS SOUTH POINTE(25-4)
Unfinished business. That’s the theme for this Westwood Lady Redhawks teams as they are back in the upper state title game for the second straight year. They lost to powerhouse North Augusta last season. And due to the realignment, they avoid the rematch as NA has been designated in the Lower State bracket. Westwood however, will still see a familiar foe in South Pointe. The two teams share a region and split in the regular season. The Lady Redhawks won 71-55 more recently but lost the first meeting in a tight one, 65-61 in Rock Hill. Scarlett Gilmore (Yes, the little sister of former Gamecock/NFL’er Stephon Gilmore) and Jamia Blake became the school’s first 1,000 point scorers this year. The Stallions have only been a program since 2006. I think the key will be the guard play. Westwood has experience there with Unique Drake, and they shoot the three a little better too. This one should be fun.
4A BOYS-Friday 8:30
RIDGE VIEW(23-7) VS WREN(22-6)
This might be my most anticipated of the weekend. Mainly because I just saw Ridge View this week and they are so fun to watch. But follow me here, Wren beat Greenville, who beat Westwood who beat RV. Did I lose you there? Wren is a team that can certainly hang with the fast paced, and veteran Blazers. Ridge View has Georgetown signee Malcolm Wilson who wreaks havoc on both ends standing at 6’11. And Walyn Napper sets the tone scoring and spreading the floor. The last meeting between these two was 2017 and Wren won 75-65 in the third round. RV is trying to repeat as 4A champs. Watch out for Bryce McGowens(6’4 guard) for Wren. A sophomore D-1 prospect getting a lot of attention.
HIGH POINT ACADEMY VS ESTILL
Really interesting story for High Point Academy out of Spartanburg. Only been a school for four years. They actually play home games at the school for the deaf and blind. Not a joke. The AD is a former coach from Byrnes High School. So now, they are competing for a Upper State title for the first time in school history at both the boys and girls levels. Estill has the experience here. They won the state title in 2017.
HIGH POINT ACADEMY(22-6) VS GREAT FALLS(20-3)
Can Great Falls get back to prominence? The Red Devils have eight state championship banners hanging, all behind legendary hall of fame coach John Smith. It’s the first time they are back in the final four since 2012.
KEENAN (18-7) VS EMERALD (21-4)
To no one’s surprise, both the Keenan girls and boys are back in the final four. This time, its in the ranks of 3A. The Lady Raiders have a team with no seniors and two middle schoolers on their roster. So a young squad but always well coached by Reggie Mclain.
KEENAN (28-1) VS CHESTER (12-10)
Zach Norris keeps doing it at Keenan. Some are saying this could be his best squad yet. He’s trying to help his team punch their ticket to the state title game for the eighth time. This will be the fifth straight trip to the Upper State for the Raiders. This team is more than just well coached, they have the studs. Dillon Jones, Asanti Jones, Q’Dardruis Sanders and Lartrell Taylor have all been in the program for a good while now and are as strong as any starting lineup in the state. This will be the third meeting between the teams as they play in the same region. The Raiders won both meetings by a combined score of 153-114
SPRING VALLEY(25-3) VS SUMTER(24-3)
Another rematch of region teams. The defending 5A Champion Spring Valley Lady Vikings throttled the Lady Gamecocks this year by a combined 141-88. The only three losses for Megan Assey’s Lady Vikes came to an out of state Florida team, and two other teams playing this weekend(South Pointe and North Augusta).
DORMAN(26-3) VS MAULDIN(22-6)
Dorman is looking for back to back 5A state titles. The Cavaliers are so fun to watch. Saw them earlier this year vs Gaffney. Myles Tate(6’0 Jr) at PG is electric, and PJ Hall(6’9 Jr) is as good and smart for a big man I have seen in high school basketball. They shot over 70 percent from three in their win this week over Spartanburg. And defensively they held the Vikings to under 25 percent shooting. Mauldin has won 22 games this year, the four previous seasons they had won just 21 combined. However, in two meetings this year vs Dorman, the Mavericks lost 161-109.
LOWER STATE CHAMPIONSHIPS
Florence Civic Center
Friday, February 22
4:00 – AA Girls (Mullins vs East Clarendon)
Mullins has played in the previous two title games in 2A. East Clarendon were the state champions in 1A last season.
5:30 – AA Boys (Oceanside Collegiate vs Gray Collegiate)
Gray Collegiate is making its third straight trip to the final four. They are obviously going for back to back state championships. Oceanside and Gray are sister schools sharing similar administration.
7:00 – AAAA Girls (North Augusta vs Myrtle Beach)
North Augusta is one of the best girls basketball teams I have seen in some time. But the Lady Seahawks are no slouch. They are trying to reach the title game for the fourth time in school history. They won back to back in 2009-2010.
8:30 – AAAA Boys (Darlington vs Wilson)
Expect standing room only for this one. Couple of foes that have shared regions and played some big time games over the years.
Saturday, February 23
11:00 – 1A Girls (Scott’s Branch vs Lake View)
12:30 – 1A Boys (Bethune-Bowman vs Hemingway)
Hemingway has won the previous 2 state championships in 1A
2:00 – 3A Girls (Dillon vs Bishop England)
Two of the top teams and programs in the state battle here. BE won four of five state titles from 2012 to 2016 in 2A then went on to win again in their first year in 3A (2017). Dillon more known for football, yet always competes in most sports, stands in the way of the Battling Bishops.
3:30 – 3A Boys (Ridgeland-Hardeeville vs Manning)
Ridgeland-Hardeeville is trying to avenge losing in the state title game last year but first they got to get past the Monarchs here. Manning is looking to get to its first state title game.
5:00 – 5A Girls (Lexington vs Goose Creek)
The Lexington girls are playing in the semis for the first time since 1979. They are led by Olivia Thompson who has signed on to play with Dawn Staley’s Lady Gamecocks. I think a lot of folks are pulling for an all Midlands rematch here if Lexington girls win and SV girls in the Upper State.
6:30 – 5A Boys (Lexington vs Berkeley)
Well this game got a whole lot more interesting now that Bailey Harris has announced his retirement. The longtime coach for the Wildcats made it official after practice on Thursday. So this will indeed be his swan song. And what a way he’s going out, win or lose. The Wildcats are an astounding 29-0. No one predicted anything like this. Coach Bailey Harris has done it the right way for a long time. One of the great coaches in the Palmetto State. Mason Carver and company are going to try and make sure their coach gets one last game before he calls it a career and go out on top. Its the first trip for Lexington to Lower state since 2012.