Highlander girls launch title drive today

02/21/2012 7:19 AM

02/21/2012 7:21 AM

Heathwood Hall opens the SCISA Class 3A state girls basketball tournament today at the Sumter Civic Center as the team to beat.

The top-ranked Highlanders (21-1) draw Laurence Manning Academy in the 8 p.m. nightcap. Cardinal Newman (15-10) opens the four-game slate at 3:30 p.m. against Orangeburg Prep.

Heathwood Hall is riding a 15-game winning streak since suffering its lone setback of the season at the Augusta Christian holiday tournament against a team from Tennessee. The Highlanders have wins against top SCISA contenders Pinewood Prep and Northwood Academy. Heathwood fell 58-48 to Pinewood Prep in the SCISA title game a year ago.

Sophomore A’ja Wilson is the driving force for the Highlanders. The smooth 6-foot-4 center is averaging 24.0 points, 12.9 rebounds, 5.3 blocks, 3.0 assists and 3.6 steals a game. She is shooting 55% from the field (228-for-412) and has 33 field goals from 3-point range.

Fellow sophomores Victoria Dickerson (9.5 ppg, 2.4 apg), Erin Ress (6.7 ppg, 2.5 spg) and Chelsea Joseph (7.9 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 2.4 spg) provide Wilson with solid support.

Cardinal Newman made the Elite Eight cut by defeating Florence Christian 68-16 in a preliminary round game on Saturday. Annaliese Hughen, Alex August and Molly Rainwater are the go-to CN players.

The semifinal games are set for 3:30 and 6:30 p.m. on Friday with the championship game set for 6:30 p.m. on Saturday.

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