The SCISA Region 1-3A campaign begins Tuesday with two varsity doubleheaders on tap. Hammond travels to face Ben Lippen, while Heathwood Hall hosts Augusta Christian.
Cardinal Newman has a non-region twinbill on Tuesday against Wilson Hall, and gets into the region fray on Friday at Heathwood Hall.
Hammond’s two youthful teams are off to great starts. The Skyhawks boys stand at 11-2 after a 14-12 showing last season. The girls squad stands at 9-2 and are well on the way to posting the program’s first winning grade since 2007-08.
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Freshman Seventh Woods and sophomore Xavier McDaniel, Jr., the son of for A.C. Flora and NBA great Xavier McDaniel, are the driving forces for a Hammond team that is growing into a true contender for a SCISA championship – a prize that has eluded the program since winning it all under Jimmy Braddock in 1999.
Woods is averaging 20.2 points, 4.5 assists and 3.0 steals per game. He pumped in a season high 34 points in Friday’s 62-45 win over Wilson Hall, hitting 10 of 12 field goal attempts. He’s had two 10-assist games in wins over Florence Christian and Cross.
McDaniel, a 6-foot-4 forward, is averaging 12.2 points and 6.5 rebounds. He tallied a season high 21 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in a win over Camden Military and had another double-double against North.
The other key operative is junior Spencer Carlson, who is averaging 11.3 points per game.
Hammond’s only two losses have come in special games at two elite tournaments – to Aquinas GA at the Chick-fil-A Classic and to Mullins at the beach Ball Classic.
The Skyhawks have only two seniors on the roster.
Amoshia Blakeney, the only senior on the team, and freshman Amelia Green have been the prime movers on the girls team has faltered only against defending SCISA runner-up Northwood Academy and Fairfield Central, the No. 1-ranked team in High School League Class 2A.
The Falcons boys (6-5) enter the conference opener riding a three-game winning streak. Seniors Luke Burnett (13.9 ppg, 2.5 apg) and Tyler Renew (13.2 ppg) and Graham Hall (9.7 ppg) and sophomore Wright Bynum (9.2 ppg, 8.1 rpg) are the major contributors.
Corrie Hester and Leah Austin are top hands on the Falcon girls team that stands at 5-5.
The Highlanders run of success – three straight SCISA championship-game appearances, one title – is in jeopardy. Jeff Whalen’s rebuilding team has struggled offensively and enters the region season with a 5-5 record. Heathwood, led by veterans Bradley Singleton and Chase Ryan, opened impressively with three straight wins, including one over traditional SCSA power Pinewood Prep. But things have not gone well since.
The opposite is true for the Highlander girls (8-6), who are 5-2 since the return of junior star A’ja Wilson to the lineup after suffering a preseason wrist injury. Wilson is averaging 26.0 points, 16.4 rebounds, 6.7 blocks, 4.1 assists and 3.0 steals per game since returning to the fold. Juniors Victoria Dickerson (14.7 ppg), Gadson Lefft (11.6 ppg, 6.8 rpg), Chelsea Joseph (5.7 ppg, 7.1 rpg and Erin Ress around out a starting lineup that is primed for a championship run.
The Cardinals have two more region warm-ups before getting down to business on Friday. CN travels to Orangeburg Prep on Monday and hosts Wilson Hall on Tuesday.
The boys team (6-8) is coming off another tough loss – a 64-59 decision to HSL Class 1A Lewisville despite a 31-point night by Austin Ajukwa. The Cardinals hope the preseason struggles disappear once region play begins.
The girls team (4-6) halted a three-game losing streak with a 48-18 win over Lewisville last week.