Hammond’s basketball programs have been on the rise, but winning the big one has been an unfulfilled quest.
The Skyhawks boys and girls teams hope to inch closer to ending their title droughts in Friday’s semifinal games at the SCISA Class 3A state tournament at the Sumter Civic Center.
The Hammond boys (24-4) square off against Pinewood Prep at 5 p.m., followed by the Hammond girls (20-6) against First Baptist at 6:30 p.m. The Skyhawks’ last SCISA boys title was in 1999 under former coach Jimmy Braddock, while the last girls championship was in 1993 in the old Palmetto Athletic Conference.
Mark McClam’s Skyhawks boys roster is filled with talented players, including stars Seventh Woods and Xavier McDaniel, who have helped Hammond win 67 games the past three seasons but no championships – yet.
McClam’s master plan has included upgrading the non-SCISA competition. This year, the Skyhawks have beaten Spring Valley, swept Eau Claire, split two games with Dreher and faced 4A squads (Clover and Hillcrest) as well as various out-of-state foes in tournaments.
“We’ve put together rigorous, challenging schedules for a couple of years now,” McClam said. “This year, in particular, we wanted to line up the best competition we could find, and I can say they’ve answered the bell every time.”
The Woods-McDaniel led team made it to the SCISA championship game in 2012 only to fall to Midlands rival Cardinal Newman. Last year, the Skyhawks suffered a stunning quarterfinal loss to eventual champion Augusta Christian. Hammond swept the Lions during region play.
“I think we’re road tested,” McClam said. “We have a lot of pieces to the puzzle. It’s not just Seventh and Xavier. The team has bought into making it happen at both ends of the court.”
The tough schedule, coupled with a productive offseason, has the Skyhawks primed for the task at hand.
“One team, one dream. That’s is our motto,” McClam said. “We worked hard on strength training, and we’ve worked harder in practice. We’re just more experienced, more mature.”
Woods is averaging 15.8 points, 3.7 assists and 3.6 steals. McDaniel, a senior, is averaging 13.5 points and 5.8 rebounds. Junior Chevez Goodwin, a 6-foot-9 center, averages 12.5 points and 9.3 boards.
Freshman Lucas Prickett and eighth-grader Tommy Bruner round out the starting lineup and are solid contributors.
The Hammond girls also have fared well against a similar parade of quality public school teams before running away with a region title.
Junior Amelia Green (12.5 ppg) and freshmen Trinity Johnson (10.8), Ahlea Myers (13.0) and Morgan Walker (8.4) are the top producers on coach Roshan Myers’ team, which loves to run and turn up the defensive heat.