Preview: Region 4-4A hoop openers

January 9, 2014 

The Region 4-4A basketball campaign begin with three varsity doubleheaders on Friday.

Defending state and 4-4A champion Irmo is heavily favored to maintain command in the conference after going 10-0 last season. Spring Valley’s girls went 10-0 on the way to the region title last season, but the Vikings figure to be challenged by a vastly improved Irmo squad this time around.

Blythewood at Irmo

Tim Whipple’s Irmo boys storm into region play with a 12-1 ranking and the No. 3 ranking in Class 4A. Interestingly, the Yellow Jackets were No. 1 in the preseason poll, dropped to No. 5 based on a preseason tournament loss to Dorman, but failed to regain the top spot after thrashing Gaffney, then ranked No. 1, in the championship game of the Dorman Classic holiday tournament. So it goes … The bigger story is the great start by the Irmo girls, who sport a 13-1 record and the No. 3 spot in the 4A poll. Ke’Asia Jackson (13.4 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 3.0 spg), Taziya Moore (10.9 ppg, 2.4 spg), Shakira Carter (7.7 ppg, 5.8 rpg) and Olivia Jabber (4.1 ppg, 6.3 rpg) have been key to the Jackets early surge … Blythewood’s girls team (7-7) has won four of its last five games behind the play of Breelyn Blanding (16.6 ppg, 2.5 apg, 3.1 spg) and Lauren Harley (10.5 ppg), 2.5 spg). The Bengal boys squad has a 5-11 mark entering the conference season.

Lugoff-Elgin at Spring Valley

The Spring Valley girls are off to a 12-1 start and ranked No. 2 in Class 4A behind Dorman. Senior Cierra Carter, who has been nominated for consideration to play in the McDonald’s All-American Games, is averaging 20.9 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.9 steals per game for the Vikings. Carter is receiving solid backing from juniors Akia Dunlap (10.5 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 2.8 spg) and Megan Davis 9.1 ppg, 1.7 apg) … The Viking boys team, which is without injured junior star Perry Dozier Jr., enter region play with a 4-10 record, including six losses at two elite tournaments – the Chick-fil-A Classic in Columbia and the Beach Ball Classic in Myrtle Beach. SC, however, is 2-0 since the start of the new year … Lugoff-Elgin has managed only three varsity wins to date. The Demon boys are 1-9 with the lone win coming against 1A McBee, while the L-E girls are 2-9.

Richland NE at Ridge View

RNE begins its last region campaign at the highest level before dropping down to Class 3A next season. The Cavalier girls team is a markedly improved outfit in Precious Caldwell’s second season at the helm. RNE went 8-6 in non-region testing after winning just three games in 23 tries a year ago. The team is on a roll of late, winning three in a row and five of its last six outings … The RNE boys are off to a rough start (3-8) is Aaron Lucas’ first season in charge … Ridge View entered the 2013-14 campaign in rebuilding mode, and both teams have had a rough go so far. The Blazer boys enter conference play at 2-9 and mired in a five-game losing streak. The RV girls (4-8) snapped a five-game losing streak on Wednesday with a 47-33 win over Westwood. Junior Ciera Goodwin (10.0 ppg, 4.2 rpg), freshman Erica Tisdale (8.6 ppg, 3.3 spg), sophomore Addison Genell (7.2 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 2.8 apg) and sophomore Gabrielle Rogers-Gamble (6.0 ppg, 5.8 rpg) are the Blazers’ top performers.

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