It has been four years since a girls championship basketball game featured a team from Lower Richland, but the time has flown by for the Diamond Hornets.
The fun-loving, young squad returns to the Class 3A championship Saturday.
“It hadn’t really seemed like it’s been that long,” said coach Debbie Stroman, whose teams ended each of the past three seasons in the semifinals.
It was 2009 when Stroman last led her Diamond Hornets to Colonial Life Arena.
Much has changed since that victory, the fourth in an unprecedented strand of girls basketball titles.
That 2009 team included Stroman’s daughter, Morgan Stroman — a McDonald’s All-American who is a senior at Miami. This year’s oldest player, Jasmine Richardson, joined the team the following year.
From 2006 to 2009, Stroman wore the same lucky socks and ate at Zaxby’s on game days. She has since had to retire the socks, but notes that Zaxby’s is still a regular part of the Diamond Hornets’ routine.
Also unchanged is the Diamond Hornets’ desire to be champions. Of course, no one is complaining about how long it took to get back.
“I’ve enjoyed it. This couldn’t have come at a better time. My senior year,” said Richardson, who leads the team in steals and assists, and averages 9 points per game.
Stroman said seniors such as Richardson and Dayonshe Mitchell have been instrumental in guiding the young Diamond Hornets to an undefeated record this season. Though both recall Stroman’s many directions on what it takes to be a champion, neither could remember any discussion on upholding the Lower Richland tradition.
“We just don’t dwell on the past, we live in the moment,” Stroman said.
Lower Richland’s opponent — Orangeburg-Wilkinson — also comes from a strong basketball tradition, and has taken a different tack.
“I know you can’t take it for granted. Your memories, your tradition are what make you,” coach Joshua Staley said. The Bruins have been in 11 title games in the past 22 years, winning four.
“We haven’t lived up to expectations the past two championship games,” Staley said. This weekend, in their third title match in five seasons, Staley acknowledged, the Bruins have a bit of weight on their shoulders.
But the Diamond Hornets are decidedly carefree.
Although it has been a long time since the Diamond Hornets broke through to the finals, their coach said they did not worry that Lower Richland’s reputation as a basketball powerhouse was a thing of the past.
“I think people were probably thinking inevitably Lower Richland would eventually get back (to the championships),” said the coach with six championships under her belt. Having been in the semifinals for the past three years, Stroman felt it was obvious that her team was on the brink.
Believing that the breakthrough was just around the corner is part of what has driven the Diamond Hornets through their four-year drought.