Lower Richlands youthful girls basketball team returned to power in a big way last season after taking a back seat to Midlands rival Dreher in 2011-12.
Last year, it was the Diamond Hornets who dominated, going 26-0 on the way to the Class 3A state championship the seventh under long-time coach Debbie Stroman.
LR went 5-0 during the playoffs, winning by an average margin of 16.8 points. The Diamond Hornets crushed Orangeburg-Wilkinson 57-35 in the title bout. For the season, Lower Richland out-scored the opposition by an average of 57.8 points to 34.3.
And with all but two players back for another go, Stroman & Co. obviously is the team to beat.
We are looking forward to a good season barring any additional early season injuries to key players, said Stroman, referring to the loss of senior Christian Brown who suffered a fractured foot in the second week of practice.
Brown averaged 7.6 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.5 steals a game last season.
Brown will be missed, but there are young, promising players ready to step in and fill the void i.e. 6-foot freshman Cailah Hicklin (3.5 ppf, 3.3 rpg) and 6-0 sophomore Dejah Williford (4.5 ppg, 2.7 rpg).
Senior Breshay Johnson, a 5-10 forward who averaged 11.9 points and 6.6 rebounds last season, is the heart-and-soul player.
Junior guard Ashley Irving (4.9 ppg, 2.5 apg, 2.4 spg), freshman guard Kameron Roach (4.3 ppg, 1.6 apg, 1.6 spg) and 5-10 sophomore forward Alaysia Washington (4.4 ppg, 3.6 rpg) are the other returning veterans.
On the boys side, Willie Thomas starts over virtually from scratch in his second season at the LR helm. Only one starter returns and just two seniors grace the roster. The acknowledged leader is 6-4 senior Brandon Stroman who averaged 10 points, four rebounds and two steals a game.
The Diamond Hornets got off to a slow start last season while adjusting to Thomas coaching method, but came on late. LR finished 16-11 and advanced to the third round of the state playoffs.
Thomas hopes to see a similar scenario this time around.
We are very young and inexperience, so it will tough getting started, he said. But I believe we will come on late in the season.