Dreher’s return to prominence in Class 3A girls basketball began with a core group of four freshmen last season that produced a surprising run to the third round of the state playoffs.
All that did was jack up the expectations for this season, and the Blue Devils have not disappointed.
Dreher enters Saturday’s championship showdown against Wade Hampton of Greenville with a 24-1 record, the No. 1 ranking and riding a 20-game winning streak.
“People tend to lessen expectations of a team that is as young as ours, but our coaching staff treats all of our varsity players as if they are all seniors,” Blue Devils coach Teresa Jones said.
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“We coach the way we always coach. We have expectations that all of our players will play hard and play smart. We had a nice little run last year, and I knew we had a chance to accomplish something special this year if we stayed focused. I was confident that the girls were mature enough for their age to handle the expectations. And they certainly have so far.”
Dreher tends to be inconsistent offensively — game to game, quarter to quarter. The foundation of the team’s success is pressure defense. The Blue Devils are allowing 30.8 points per game and have yielded 50 or more points in two games.
“Sometimes it’s frustrating when we miss a lot of shots we should be making, but the coaches do a great job of keeping our heads in the game in the defensive end,” said sophomore Kaydra Duckett, who leads the team with a 17.0 scoring average.
“The bottom line is winning, no matter how we do it.”
Jones, who sports a 298-62 record and is 1-1 in state championship games since taking over for the 2002-03 season, has relied heavily on two famous Dreher graduates to carry the motivational load, in particular Keturah Jackson and Lakesha Tolliver — teammates on teams that claimed two state championship in three tries between 2001 and 2003.
“As a coach, I can try to tell the girls what it is like to play and win a state championship game, but they get a lot more out of the visits from players like Katurah and Lakesha who have been great about coming out to practices during the playoffs,” Jones said.
Jackson and Tolliver enjoyed productive college careers at Duke and South Carolina, respectively.
Duckett, the Blue Devils’ go-to player, is averaging 6.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 4.0 steals. Makayla Johnson, a 6-foot-2 sophomore center, is averaging 10.3 points and 5.8 rebounds. Sophomore guards Jazmine Robinson (8.6 ppg, 3.0 spg, 3.0 apg) and Shaniqwa Hopkins 10.3 ppg, 2.0 apg, 2.0 spg) round out the youthful foundation.
Jones employs numerous contributing role players, including seniors Jade Nathaniel, Johneisha Myers, Christa Canty, Racquel Brown and Alexis McNeil and freshman Jordan Starr.
Dreher is facing a Wade Hampton team that had never previously made it past the second round of the playoffs. The Generals are 27-1 and have won 26 in a row since losing to Greer in a preseason tournament in November.
Juniors Alexis Dillard (12.6 ppg, 11.6 rpg) and Nakia Young (12.3 ppg, 3.6 spg) and senior Katie Tatum (10.1 ppg) are the Hampton leaders.