Basketball state championship preview, by Tyler Cupp
STATE CHAMPIONSHIP PREVIEW
1A GIRLS 3:30PM
HIGH POINT ACADEMY VS SCOTT’S BRANCH
Scott’s Branch has never won a state title. They had some good runs in the late 90’s into the 2000’s with three appearances but fell short all three times. The Lady Grizzlies of High Point, like the boys in 1A are making their first title game. They play their home games at the South Carolina school for the deaf and blind. They have only been a program for some three years.
1A BOYS 5PM
HIGH POINT ACADEMY VS HEMINGWAY
Hemingway is looking to win three straight here. It is also their 10th trip to Columbia in the last 16 years. They have seven titles currently but after seeing High Point Academy, this one might be the toughest. The Grizziles are long and athletic. Maybe one of the most versatile I have seen at the 1A level. Led by Class 1A player of the year Isayah Owens, this team has a lot of experience. Watch out for Jayden Byrd, a lot of energy and can shoot the three.
5A GIRLS 7 PM
SPRING VALLEY VS GOOSE CREEK
The Lady Vikings of Spring Valley go for back to back state 4A titles and three straight overall. This team returns most of everyone from a year ago. They have four senior girls headed to play college ball at the next level. Those players include Taylor Lewis (Middle Tennessee) Taylor Britt (Air Force), Ashley Williamson (William&Mary), and Destiny Coleman (Wingate). And their top junior, Lauryn Taylor, is already getting D-1 interest and offers.
On the other side, Goose Creek has very good depth coming into this one. Their junior point guard Aniyah Oliver is their ‘heart and soul’ as described by a fellow media friend. What will be interesting will be the play in the post. The Lady Gators are strong down low and play very good defense. It might be one of the biggest challenges SV has faced all season.
5A BOYS 8:30 PM
DORMAN VS BERKELEY
Like Valley, the Dorman Cavaliers are also going for two straight 5A state championships and third straight overall. Last week in the Upper State, they got off to a really sluggish slow start. But the defense was phenomenal and the electric D-1 prospect Myles Tate lit up in the second quarter to help the Cavs pull away. This will be the Stags first trip to the CLA, they are an athletic bunch. I just wonder what their answer is for big 6’9 PJ Hall down in the paint. Dorman might have too many weapons here with Tate, Hall, Ta’Lon Cooper (Moorehead St) and the underrated Kamal Desor. Dorman is coached by Lexington native Thomas Ryan. An all-boys team has not won three straight since Calhoun County did it from 2006-2009.
2A GIRLS 10:30 AM
CHRIST CHURCH VS MULLINS
Third straight trip for Mullins. They lost last year and won two years ago. This is a rematch from 2017 in which Mullins won. This Lady Cavalier team of Christ Church is much different however as freshman McCall King might be one of my favorite players coming out of last weekend in Greenville. She’s an up-and-comer to watch.
2A BOYS 12 NOON
ANDREW JACKSON VS GRAY COLLEGIATE
The improbable run vs the defending champs. I love this match up. AJ is the underdog. From the sleepy little town of Kershaw (not the County), the Volunteers are a great story. I don’t think I would be offending anyone by saying that they are the ones with nothing to lose here. They slipped in as a two seed in the final week of the regular season, got a first round home playoff game and proceeded to go on a wild run which included an upset over Christ Church and Silver Bluff in the Upper State. They were not ranked in the pre-season as they won only 4 games last year. Its their first trip since 1980. AJ does not have that stud, or guy that gets a lot of attention. They play fundamentally sound basketball. One former player told me its an ‘old school’ type basketball team. However, it will be a tall task taking down the War Eagles of Gray. Khalil Robinson wants to go out on top, considering he could not play last year due to an injury. Tommy Bruner (interest from ECU, COFC, Hofstra) is another fun player, a really good guard who has started the last three years. Gray has the experience and has some really good guard play with Khalil and Ja’lil Robinson and Bruner. They also have some solid bigs in Jalen DeLoach and Dallaz Corbitt (five rebounds per game each). This will be once again won in the paint, I think. AJ will have to continue to play error free and make the most of open shots.
3A GIRLS 2PM
KEENAN VS BISHOP ENGLAND
This might be the most intriguing game of the whole weekend. Two powers going up against one another here. Milaysia Fulwiley will have the spotlight. This young lady is going for her second state title, and she has yet to hit high school. The eighth grader averages nearly 18 points per game and five assists too. She already has offers from the University of South Carolina and Ole Miss.
It’s the fifth trip in seven years for the Lady Bishops. They got here by playing great defense. They held Dillon to just 22 percent shooting last week.
This is the third meeting of these two in the championship. The Lady Radiers won in 2013, while BE won back in 2016.
3A BOYS 3:30 PM
KEENAN VS RIDGELAND-HARDEEVILLE
Keenan is looking for its eighth state championship in boys basketball. Zach Norris thinks this is one of his better teams assembled and for good reason. This squad is big, long and quick. Asanti Price and Dillon Jones were strong in the Upper State title game and Raekwon Horton adds strong post play too. Ridgeland-Hardeeville is certainly happy to have one of their star players for this one. There was some doubt coming in but this week the SCSHL announced that they rescinded a game for the two game suspension that Rashamel Butler was facing for getting two technical fouls earlier in the playoffs. Butler is the 3A co-player of the year with 14 points per game to go along with six rebounds and nearly five assists per contest.
This is the second straight trip for RH while Keenan is trying to win its eighth title, and would tie them for third all-time with Calhoun County.
4A GIRLS 5:30 PM
NORTH AUGUSTA VS SOUTH POINTE
Last year North Augusta was one of the best girls basketball teams I think I had ever seen. And they are back again for another title. South Pointe is the slight underdog here but they get after it. And if anyone can beat that stifling press defense, its the Stallions. They have two 1,000 point scorers and play really hard. Mya Burns is trying to lead the Yellow Jackets to three straight titles. This is the first appearance for South Pointe High School. In fact, this is the first time any school from the Rock Hill area has made it to the state championship since 06-07.
4A BOYS 7PM
RIDGE VIEW VS WILSON (Photo by Mr. Joshua)
A rematch from last year’s game in which the Blazers won their first ever state championship. Ridge View is not that different, however Wilson is missing its biggest star from a year ago and a few others. The roles have been reversed in a way, too. Last year, the Blazers were looked at as the underdog whereas coming into Saturday, Ridge View might be the hottest team in the state. Wilson won a gutsy game with Darlington in the Lower State to get here and they are absolutely embracing that underdog mentality. Thier coach Derrick McQueen had that ‘chip on shoulder’ type approach at the SCHSL press conference this week.
Offensively, I don’t know if there’s a better team in the state with Ridge View. It all starts with Walyn Napper at point guard. Crosby Harris James and Cincere Scott combined to score 53 points last week in upper state title game. It also sure helps to have Georgetown signee Malcolm Wilson, has 20 blocks and over 20 rebounds in the last two games