It will be a Lower Richland vs. Daniel show in the Class 3A Upper State championship games on Saturday at the Bi-Lo Center in Greenville.
The Diamond Hornets girls (18-6) take on Daniel (23-2) at 6 p.m., while the LR boys (21-7) face the 20-3 Lions at 8 p.m.
Debbie Stroman’s girls were not supposed to be in a running for a fifth straight state championship this season, but the Diamond Hornets are still very much in the mix. LR has won eight straight games since losing to Chester on Jan. 22 to fall back to third place in Region 4-3A behind the Cyclones and A.C. Flora.
“After we lost to Chester and dropped out of the rankings, I challenged the girls,” said Stroman.
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“I coach every team the same way. We play to win, no matter the circumstances. The girls have responded and we’ve played pretty well since them. In the span of one week we went from third in the region to first and we’re still playing. There you go.”
Senior veterans Jasmine Harrison and Ashley Edmond have been key to LR’s late-season surge. Freshman wing Jasmine Richardson, junior forward Beatrice Williams and junior point guard Staci Harris have all stepped up, as well.
Lower Richland is riding a 23-game playoff winning streak.
Daniel is on quite a roll as well – winning 19 in a row. The Lions have blown away three playoff opponents on the way to reaching the fourth round of the state playoffs for only the second time in program history. Anicia Dotson (15.1 ppg) and Sherece Smith (13.0 ppg) are the Lions leaders. Smith has been on fire on the playoffs, averaging 22.7 points a game. Smith burned J.L. Mann for 26 points (going 10-for-11 at the free throw line) in a 65-40 third-round romp.
The LR boys have yet to be seriously tested in the playoffs and have five straight wins by margins of at least 13 points since dropping a 70-69 decision at home to Lugoff-Elgin on Feb. 5. The Diamonds Hornets should have plenty of motivation. After all, LR is not only looking to return to the state finals for the first time since 2004, it has the chance to avenge a second-round loss to the Lions last season.
Daniel has not lost to an in-state team this season. The Lions rallied in the fourth quarter to beat J.L. Mann 67-65 on Tuesday and advance to the semifinals for the first time.
Balanced production is the Daniel calling card. Antonio Cannon (13.8 ppg), Justin Dotson (13.1), Shaq Lawson (12.0) and Deandre Hopkins (11.4) are the top threats.