High School Sports

2A boys: Keenan hosts B-L Panthers in 2A opener

Keenan hosts Batesburg-Leesville Wednesday in the first-round Class 2A state boys basketball playoffs.

The Raiders (17-8) shared the Region 4-2A championship with Central this season, but earned the No. 1 seed by defeating the Eagles from Pageland 65-59 in a tie-breaking game on Friday.

The Panthers (9-11) finished in fourth place in Region 3-2A.

Keenan has a rich tradition of postseason success. The Raiders boast a 49-21 playoff record and a 4-1 showing in state championship games. Only Great Falls (77), Calhoun County (60) and Eau Claire (52) have more boys playoff wins on the books since the start of the modern era in 1970-71. Only Great Falls (6), Eau Claire (6) and Calhoun County (6) have won more state titles than the Raiders in the modern era.

Since dropping down to Class 2A in 2004-05, Keenan has never failed to advance at least to the third round of the playoffs. Converse;y, the Raiders have not made it back to the state championship game, either, since dropping down from 3A. The Raiders lost in the 2A Upper State finals in 2006, 2006 and 2008. Keenan’s last trip to the finals was in 2001 when the Raiders crushed Union 69-38 for the 3A championship.

Ryan Norris has had an outstanding campaign to date, averaging 18.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game. His shooting percentages are particularly impressive – he is converting at a 69% rate from the field, 49% from 3-point range and 80% from the line. Bradley Smith has been consistently productive as well, averaging 12.1 points (shooting 60% from the field) and 9.0 rebounds. Point guard Jacob Green is averaging 6.0 points and 4.6 assists, and is shooting 48% from 3-point range. Dennis Rowe has been solid, averaging 8.7 points, and is yet another 3-point threat. Marvin Poole is averaging 6.3 points and 3.1 rebounds off the bench.

Batesburg-Leesville is 17-21 in the playoffs, but the Panthers have not made it past the second round since winning the 2A state title in 1988. Since reaching the pinnacle with a 71-51 conquest of Mullins in the 1988 season finale, B-L has won only three of 18 playoff outings.

Eau Claire and Newberry are the other Midlands entries, and both open the playoffs on the road.

Eau Claire (7-14) finished fourth in Region 4-2A and travels to face Region 3-2A champion Strom Thurmond, which is off to a great start in its first season at the 2A level. The once mighty Shamrocks, who also made their 2A debut this season, have not made it past the third round since 2000. EC sports a 52-24 state playoff record since 1971.

Newberry (10-13) is 19-22 in the playoffs with its best postseason showings coming 1998 and 2007. The Bulldogs lost to Fairfield Central in the 3A championship game in 1998 and reached the 2A Upper State title game in 2007 before falling to eventual champion Southside.