PLAYERS TO WATCH
KAYDRA DUCKETT, DREHER
5-foot-10 senior guard and South Carolina commitment leads the Blue Devils with her physical play and smart perimeter game.
A’JA WILSON, HEATHWOOD HALL
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There’s nothing this 6-4 forward does not do for the Highlanders. Strong at both ends of the court, Wilson is an aggressive rebounder and an excellent ball-handler.
MAKAYLA JOHNSON, DREHER
The 6-foot-3 Clemson commitment gives the Blue Devils an aggressive inside presence and wins the battle on the boards.
CIERRA CARTER, SPRING VALLEY
This three-year starter has size and speed and can handle the bulk of the Vikings’ rebounding and inside scoring. She is becoming a stronger outside shooter as well.
BRESHAY JOHNSON, LOWER RICHLAND
Johnson is 5-9, but she plays big. The senior’s post presence is key to second-chance points and rebounds.
KAMERON ROACH, LOWER RICHLAND
This freshman guard has a fluid shot and already showed she can be a game-changer in last year’s title game.
SYDNEY SHULL, DUTCH FORK
The gutsy 5-7 senior has a strong perimeter game but is a tough defender and not afraid of a mismatch inside.
ALEXIS FOULKS, COLUMBIA
This senior does everything for the Capitals, but she is especially strong on the defensive boards. She blocked 46 shots last year.
AKIA DUNLAP, SPRING VALLEY
The Vikings’ junior guard is speedy and will be a key leader for the Vikings on the perimeter.
TEAMS TO WATCH
DUTCH FORK: After repeating as Class 4A champion, the Silver Foxes lost a lot with Alaina Coates, Kyla Wigfall and Rose Robinson among the graduating class. But coach Faye Norris’ team is in a strong position with lots of experience returning. Morgan Williams, a junior who complemented Coates last season, maintains the Silver Foxes’ strength in the post, while guards Zhane Green and Syndey Shull can run the floor.
LOWER RICHLAND: The Diamond Hornets had a young team at the Class 3A championship. This year, youth plus experience equals dominance for Lower Richland. Seniors Breshay Johnson and Christian Brown lead the team, while freshman Cailah Hicklin and Kameron Roach give the squad energy. The pair of Hicklin and Johnson in the post should pose problems for opponents.
KEENAN: The Raiders have a strong group of juniors leading their charge in 2A. Leon Hill in the post and spirited guard Demyra Rudder are among the leaders who will push the Raiders to the top of their class. Keenan has a tendency to start slow, but with a group that has been together a few years, the Raiders may be able to skip the growing pains. Dashelle Robinson, a shooting guard, may be in the drivers’ seat on offense.
SPRING VALLEY: The Vikings, always a well-coached team, have both size and speed, and are motivated to improve on last season’s second-round playoff exit. Led by senior forward Cierra Carter, Spring Valley may be a guard-heavy squad. Akia Dunlap, Bayleigh Ponds and Megan Davis are among the team’s options on the wing.
DREHER: Led by co-captains Kaydra Duckett and Shaniqwa Hopkins, the Blue Devils are two seasons removed from their last state 3A championship. They have all the tools they need to get back. Jhileiya Dunlap and Makayla Johnson at center make the Blue Devils a force inside, and Dreher has a solid lineup of guards — including juniors Jordan Starr and Daija Parks. With Duckett running the floor, the Blue Devils are capable of big things.
Akilah Imani Nelson