High school basketball practice began this past week. Here’s an early look at some of the top story lines for the Midlands:
A.C. Flora boys look to repeat
The A.C. Flora boys team is coming off its third consecutive state championship appearance, and there’s no reason why it won’t be in contention for a fourth trip. The Falcons won the 3A state championship last year, and return several key parts, including Christian Brown, James Reese, Deshawn Thomas and Thomas Hollingsworth. The schedule will be highlighted by a game at Oak Hill in January.
New Classification /Regions
Realignment and addition of a new classification should have an impact and make for some great races and matchups.
In Region 5-5A, all the teams are from the Midlands and it should be competitive with the Irmo, Dutch Fork, Spring Valley and Blythewood boys playing each other two times. In Region 4-4A, Orangeburg-Wilkinson will be added toDreher, Lower Richland and A.C. Flora. In Region 3-2A, there will be two boys matchups featuring Gray Collegiate and Keenan.
With the new classification, the Friday schedule in the upper/lower and state championship games will feature four games, while the Saturday schedule will have six games.
New faces lead LR and SV girls
Midlands girls basketball will have a different look without Anne Long at Spring Valley and Debbie Stroman at Lower Richland. Megan Assey from River Bluff takes over at Spring Valley, which won the Class 4A championship last year. Former Dreher standout Keturah Jackson from White Knoll takes over at Lower Richland.
New boys coaches include John Combs (Ben Lippen), Jeff Dibattisto (Westwood), Mark Snelgrove (Chapin), Caleb Gaither (Lower Richland), Vince Lowry (C.A. Johnson), Yerrick Stoneman (Ridge View), David Ross (Hammond) Phillip Deter (Cardinal Newman), Steve Moore (Dreher) and Devin Liferidge (White Knoll). New girls coaches include Ashleigh Edwards (White Knoll), Bret Jones (River Bluff), Jabari Deas (Richland Northeast), Rich Edwards (Heathwood Hall) and Molly Rainwater (Cardinal Newman).
Gray Collegiate boys primed for run
Gray Collegiate has the state’s top prospect in Jalek Felton, and likely will be the No. 1 team in Class 2A when preseason polls come out later this month. The War Eagles are ranked No. 16 in USA Today’s Super 25 boys basketball poll. It’ll be the first time Gray is eligible for the postseason.
Felton, a UNC commit, transferred from Mullins and is ranked No. 24 in ESPN’s Top 100 for Class of 2017. He has plenty of talent around him in Division I prospectsTommy Bruner, Juwan Gary and Khalil Robinson. Gary is ranked in the top 20 for the Class of 2019.
Irmo’s Whipple goes for 700
Irmo boys coach Tim Whipple can add another milestone to his coaching resume this season.
Whipple is three wins shy of 700 victories for his career. He’s entering his 36th season as head coach, and coming off his ninth state championship trip with six titles.
Spring Valley boys rebuilding
The Spring Valley boys don’t have a new coach, but all five starters, led by Yale signee Jordan Bruner, are gone. Spring Valley is coming off a trip to the 4A Upper State title game before losing to eventual state title winner Byrnes.
Dutch Fork boys have potential
The Silver Foxes return most of their team, including Dayton commit Jordan Davis. The senior was the Midlands’ leading scorer last year and Class 4A Player of the Year. He will be joined by Catawba commit Willie Dunbar, point guard Deuce Dean and Justin Thompson. Dean, a sophomore, has offers from Virginia Tech and The Citadel.
Holiday events have loaded fields
High school fans in the Midlands will again be treated to two strong tournaments in December.
The Bojanagles’ Bash will be held Dec. 8-10 at Ridge View, and features Huntington Prep (WV) and Miller Grove (Ga.) .
The Chick-fil-A Classic at Richland will feature Spartanburg Day’s Zion Williamson, one of the top prospects for Class of 2018. The field includes 12 of the country’s top-100 seniors, 11 of the top 150-ranked juniors and four of the top-25 sophomores.
Also, the Crescent Bank MLK Bash in January is back for a second season. The boys’ side will feature a matchup between A.C. Flora and Gray Collegiate.
Wide-open SCISA race
With Seventh Woods and Chevez Goodwin off to college, Hammond won’t be the favorite.
Cardinal Newman might be the best of the bunch with a roster including Stetson commit Christiaan Jones, Brandon Martin and Chico Carter Jr. Heathwood Hall returns point guard and Army commit Josh Caldwell.
Dreher girls goes for repeat
The Dreher girls team lost Gatorade Player of the Year Jhileiya Dunlap, but two of the Blue Devils’ Big Three are back.
Senior Jaelynn Murray, a North Carolina commit, averaged 18.5 points and 7.5 rebounds a game. Point guard Kamryn Lemon averaged 16.7 points and 4.1 assists per game.