Four reigning Midlands teams are still standing as the state basketball playoffs enter the semifinal phase.
In Class 4A, the Irmo boys and Dutch Fork girls look to qualify for another title shot with wins on Friday in Greenville and Florence.
Irmo (26-1) faces Hillcrest in the Upper State championship game at 8 p.m. at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville. The Yellow Jackets advanced with a wild 76-65 win over Gaffney and star L.J. Peak on Tuesday. It was also the 650th career win for coach Tim Whipple. Irmo is looking for its third big-school title in the past four seasons. The Jackets have won 24 in a row since losing to Dorman in a preseason tournament championship game in November and are 55-1 over the past two seasons.
Dutch Fork (17-7) has hit a few more bumps on the road this season after going 29-0 to claim its second straight 4A title a year ago. The point is, Faye Norris’ young, team is peaking at the right time. The Silver Foxes have won eight in a row and 12 of 13 since Jan. 14. DF draws Summerville in the Lower State title game at 6:30 p.m. at the Florence Civic Center.
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Lower Richland’s girls and the Cardinal Newman boys are the other defending champs in the hunt.
LR (25-1) has a dream match-up against cross-town rival Dreher (21-4) in the 3A Upper State title bout at 5 p.m. on Saturday in Greenville. The Diamond Hornets are riding a 24-game winning streak and are 31-1 over the past two seasons. Lower Richland swept the Blue Devils for the second year in a row during the Region 4 campaign. The Diamonds replaced Dreher on the 3A throne last season after the Blue Devils beat then four times on the way to the top in 2012.
Cardinal Newman (18-9) is the lone Midlands boys team left in the SCISA 3A tournament at the Sumter County Civic Center. The Cardinals eliminated Heathwood Hall in the quarterfinals on Wednesday. Ben Lippen and Hammond were also shown the door CN takes on Laurence Manning Academy (21-11) at 5 p.m.
The A.C. Flora and C.A. Johnson boys and the Heathwood Hall girls are the other area teams in action this weekend.
ACF (18-9) has won nine of its last 10 games since dropping back-to-back Region 4-3A games in the middle of January. The Falcons prevailed on the road at Travelers Rest and at Emerald to move on to the fourth round of the playoffs for the first time since the playoff format expanded to 32 teams in each classification in 1992. Flora draws Greenville in the 3A Upper State final at 6:30 p.m. in Greenville. A win earns the Falcons their first state title shot since 1986.
C.A. Johnson (17-9) is another Midlands team on a roll. The Green Hornets have won seven in a row and 11 of 12 since the start of Region 3-1A play on Jan. 14. CAJ has three state wins by double-digit margins to far, and faces Christ Church in the Upper State small-school game Saturday at 12:30 p.m. The Green Hornets have been this far along the postseason tail since winning the 3A championship in 1989 – the one and only hoops title since the venerable African-American school joined the High School League in the wake of desegregation in 1970.
It’s now or never for the Heathwood Hall girls and A’ja Wilson, who was named the national player of the year earlier this week. The Highlanders (21-4) meets Hilton Head Christian (20-4) in a SCISA 3A semifinal game at 6:30 p.m. in Sumter with a spot in Saturday's championship game on the line.