Midlands basketball items of note

February 21, 2014 

The first round of the SCHSL state basketball playoffs is complete.

Here is a look back, and a look ahead to second-round play on Saturday.

The four Midlands defending state champions prevailed – Irmo’s boys and the Dutch Fork, Lower Richland and Keenan girls.

Irmo boys romped over Greenwood, 75-35, to improve to 24-1. The Yellow Jackets have won six in a row and 13 of their last 14 postseason outings. Tim Whipple’s team is in the midst of a 22-game winning streak this season. Thursday’s win was the 648th in Whipple’s 33-year career at Irmo. The Jackets host Northwestern on Saturday.

Dutch Fork (15-7) downed Midlands rival Ridge View 55-32 behind Morgan Williams (16 points), Alexis Frasier (14) and Sydney Shull (11) to take its first step toward a possible third straight Class 4A title. It was the 11th straight postseason win for the Silver Foxes who have gone 10-1 since Jan. 14.

Lower Richland (23-1) breezed by Clinton, 77-27, with Ashley Irving in the nominal lead with 14 points. It was the 22nd win in a row for the Diamond Hornets, their sixth straight postseason success, the 33rd in 36 playoffs outings since 2006. The Diamond Hornets are 57-24 in postseason matters in the modern era – ranking fourth overall in playoff wins and tied for first with seven championships since 1971. Next up is Blue Ridge on Saturday.

Keenan (13-9) pulled off a road win at Chesterfield, 50-41, and will meet region rival Fairfield (17-6) in the second round at 4 p.m. Conference champion FC swept the Raiders this season by 44-38 and 52-42 margins. A win sends the Griffins on to the third round for the first time since 2002 and for only the second time in program history.

Here are other items of note:

Spring Valley had the bonanza of breaks in Class 4A. Both Viking teams were No. 2 seeds and expected to hit the road in the second round if successful in the openers. Instead, SV hosts a second-round doubleheader starting at 3 p.m. The Vikings boys (12-13) raced past Woodmont 99-66 as Chris Adams poured in 26 points, and ended up with a home date against Byrnes – an upset winner against South Pointe. The SV girls (21-3) topped Woodmont 49-24 with Cierra Carter draining 23 points, and rated a bonus home game thanks to Wade Hampton’s win over Region 3 champion Lancaster.

It was a case of the have and have-not regions in Class 3A girls play. Region 4 pulled off a sweep with LR and Dreher winning at home, Chapin and A.C. Flora claiming road wins. Region 6 teams produced a 4-0 effort in the Lower State. On the other hand, Region 5 went 0-4 with the average losing margin being 29.5 points. The hardest pill to swallow was Airport’s 41-31 loss to Darlington. The Eagles are 20-0 in region play over the past two seasons, but are 0-2 in state home games.

Lower Richland’s boys suffered an 81-78 road loss at Chapman, marking the end of a 16-game winning streak in first-round games. It was the first stumble at the outset for the Diamond Hornets since a 76-72 defeat at the hands of Socastee, coached by Beach Ball Classic founder Dan D'Antoni, in 1992.

Blythewood’s girls (14-11) snapped a three-year first-round losing streak with a 39-22 win over Ashley Ridge behind Breelyn Blanding’s 11-point effort. The Bengals play at West Florence on Saturday with the goal of advancing past the second round for the first time since 2009.

Dreher’s boys (18-6) ended a three-year, first-round losing streak with an easy 68-33 win against Woodruff. Tevin Mack helped end the slide by nearly outscoring the Wolverines himself – 30 points.

A.C. Flora’s boys (16-9) beat Clinton 79-61 for their third straight first-round win. Prior to 2012, the Falcons ere 0-14 in playoff openers between 1992 and 2010. Rion Davis (15 points) and Karl Gamble (14) led the way. The Falcons reached the third round for the first time in 21 years last season. They will try get back to the elite eight level again with a win at Travelers Rest. Flora beat the Devil Dogs in the first round last year.

Keenan’s boys (19-6) crushed Andrew Jackson, 82-57, as Marcus Stroman and Sam Harmon shared scoring honors with 17 points apiece. It was the Raiders’ 16th straight first round win. Next up is Cheraw. The Braves will try to be the first team to defeat Keenan in the second round since the Raiders moved down from 3A in 2005.

Fairfield Central’s Saturday mission is to advance both varsity teams to the third round of the playoffs in the same season for the first time. The Griffin boys (18-7) will have to do their part on the road against Indian Land. A success likely sets up a third-round rematch with region rival Keenan.

C.A. Johnson’s girls team (10-12) ran by Blackville-Hilda, 47-31, for its fourth straight first-round win. The Green Hornets have never made it past the second round. CAJ has a demanding challenge to break the mold against St. Joseph’s in Greenville.

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