Dreher, Fairfield Central, Lower Richland, Camden and Swansea open the Class 3A state boys basketball playoffs with home games on Tuesday. Otherwise, A.C. Flora is the only Midlands entry assigned a road playoff opener.
Region 5-3A champion Dreher (18-5) draws Stall in a first-round Lower State game. Fairfield Central (19-4) and Lower Richland (20-4), which ahred honors in Region 4-3A, square off against Berea and Wade Hampton from Greenville County, respectively, in first-round Upper State play. Region 6-3A champion Camden (19-2) hosts Socastee. Region 5 runner-up Swansea (14-9) takes on Lake Marion.
Dreher is riding an 11-game winning streak after falling to Fairfield Central 90-84 in double overtime on Jan. 6. Balance had been the Blue Devils calling card during the late-season surge. Quayshaun Hawkins is averaging 12.4 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.8 steals. Chris Brown is the nominal scoring leader at 12.9 ppg. Dominique Nathaniel is averaging 11.6 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 2.7 steals a game. Dominic Boyd is averaging 9.4 points,
The Blue Devils are looking to end a four-game state losing skid that began with a 58-52 loss to Timberland in the 2003 Lower State championship game. Since then, Dreher has suffered first-round setbacks in 2006, 2007 and 2008. The Blue Devils are 20-22 in playoff matters in the modern era (since 1971).
Marquis Robinson, Anthony Craig, Kendrick Anderson and Dominique Weldon have been the FC leaders this season. The Griffins stand at 12-10 in state playoff games, but are 3-7 in postseason play since Berea ended their six-game state winning streak in the second round of the 1999 playoffs. FC turned things around last year, advancing to the third round before losing to Wade Hampton.
Lower Richland makes its 3A playoff debut against a Wade Hampton team that advanced to the Upper State championship game a year ago. The Generals from Greenville have not played in a title game since losing in the 4A finale in 1974 against long-gone Middleton. The Diamond Hornets posted a 44-20 grade and went 4-1 in championship games during its 4A stay. LR, which is sixth on the modern era state playoff wins list, last made it to a championship game in 2004 and claimed its last title in 1999. Preston Blackmon and Larry Felder are the Diamond Hornets go-to men.
Camden loaded up a lot of early wins against 1A competition, but have since proven itself to be a contender for a state title. The only team that has solved the Bulldogs to date is Region 6-3A rival Darlington. Josh and Jay Council and Evrik Gary are Camden’s big guns. The Bulldogs (20-22 in the playoffs) have been high-stakes players over the past 10 years – reaching the third round two times and after to the Lower State title game in 1999 - but are still looking for their first state title shot in the modern era. First-round foe Socastee just has not been the same since Dan D’Antoni left to help his brother coach in the NBA a few years ago.
Swansea ‘s top priority is to get past the first round, something that has been a problem of late. The Tigers, after all, have lost seven of their last eight playoff openers since 1996. Senior Trenton Green is averaging 15.5 points and 9.0 rebounds after missing the first half of the season. Otherwise, Damien Johnson is averaging 12.4 points and 5.3 rebounds, Kyndon Smith is at 12.1 ppg with 37 field goals from 3-point land and Alaundrias Riley is averaging 7.5 points and 5.7 boards.
A.C. Flora made the cut by downing Lugoff-Elgin in a play-in game on Friday after the team tied for fourth place in Region 4-3A. The reward for the Falcons is a road trip to face Region 2-3A champion J.L. Mann. The Falcons were once serious postseason players, but have lost 13 straight state outings since 1991 to drop their playoff report card to 18-23. ACF won two titles in three tries between 1981 and 1986.