It’s a light slate locally in the first round of state basketball playoff action on Monday.
Six Midlands teams begin the postseason sweepstakes tonight, but only two teams open at home – Airport and Dreher.
Airport (15-8) hosts Stall in first-round game in the Lower State bracket. The Eagles had a memorable regular season, winning the first out-right region championship in program history. Airport went 10-0 to claim Region 5 honors and is riding a 12-game winning streak into the playoffs. Sophomore Taylor Payne is the lone Eagle player who sports a double-digit scoring average. The Eagles, who got off to a 1-7 start, rely on team defense to get by. Airport’s defensive average during the current winning streak is 25.8 points per game.
Dreher (19-6) opens the 3A playoffs with a first-round Upper State bracket game against Blue Ridge. The defending state champion Blue Devils started the season with 10 straight wins before faltering against a parade of quality out-of-state teams during the Christmas holidays. Then, Dreher came up short in two Region 4 battles against Lower Richland.
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Are the Devils ready to return to form? Is another Dreher-Lower Richland confrontation in the Upper State championship game at the Bi-Lo Center in Greenville inevitable? Stay tuned.
Junior Kayla Duckett (17.4 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 2.3 apg, 3.5 spg) and freshman Jhileiya Dunlap (11.7 ppg, 6.7 rpg) are the big guns for Dreher, but there is solid support from sophomore Jordan Starr (8.3 ppg), senior Jazmine Robinson (6.3 ppg, 3.2 apg, 3.5 spg) and junior Makayla Johnson (5.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg).
Blue Ridge (16-8) went 11-3 in Region 2, but finished in third place behind Berea and Greenville. Juniors Ross Mathias (18.1 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 3.0 apg, 2.8 spg) and Eden Holombo (12.1 ppg, 3.0 apg, 2.5 spg) are the top Fighting Tigers players.
Chapin (12-11) Has a tough opener at Berea, a team that finished in a first-place tie with Greenville in loaded Region 2. The youthful Eagles are looking to change the recent trend of early playoff exits – four first-round losses in the last five years. Junior ShaLeighya Sulton (15.0 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 2.1 apg, 4.0 spg) is the Eagles go-to player.
A.C. Flora (11-13) plays Greenville on the road. The Falcons have struggled of late, losing six of their last seven games, but the one win against Westwood during the skid was enough to secure a playoff spot. Senior Kyeshia Dawkins (16.4 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 2.9 apg, 2.9 spg) and sophomore Haniyyah Howard (10.4 ppg, 5.3 rpg) carry the production load for ACF.
Gilbert (11-9) has been a competitive team in its first season in Class 3A. The Indians finished in third place in Region 5 and travel to face Hilton Head in a first-round Lower State game
C.A. Johnson (7-13) blew a chance to rate a Class 1A playoff home opener by losing to Lamar 55-41 in the Region 3 finale last week. The Green Hornets, who have won two playoff openers in a row, will try to keep the streak alive with a road success against former region rival Fox Creek.