Spring Valley and Dutch Fork headline a six-team Midlands contingent in tonight’s first round of the Class 4A state girls basketball playoffs. The Region 4-4A champion Vikings host Gaffney in the Upper State bracket, while the Region 5-4A co-champion Silver Foxes open Lower State play at home against Summerville.
The four other area entries – Ridge View, Blythewood, Irmo and Sumter – all open on the road.
Spring Valley (22-1 and ranked No. 2 behind Dorman) enters the playoffs riding a 21-game winning streak after suffering a preseason tournament loss to York back in late November. It was been a storybook tale so far for a talented, youthful under new coach Anne Long, who enters the playoffs with 678 career wins and four state championships on her resume.
The Vikings are 17-20 in the state playoffs though the years with the high point being a championship run in 1978. But since the playoffs expanded to 32-team brackets in 1993, Spring Valley has never made it past the second round.
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Freshmen Asia Dozier and Xylina McDaniel have been outstanding to date for the Vikings. Dozier, who made a named for herself as an eight-grader last season at Heathwood Hall, has made an effortless transition to the big time this year. The standout guard is averaging 19.0 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 3.3 steals in her 4A debut. She also leads the team with 48 field goals from 3-point range. McDaniel, who has missed the last three games of the regular season, is averaging 13.7 points, 8.1 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 2.4 steals.
Briana Robinson, Shaquita Walker and Savonia Bryan have made significant contributions to Spring Valley’s success, as well. Robinson is averaging 9.0 points, 3.1 assists and 2.3 steals. Walker is at 6.2 points, 3.6 assists and 3.1 steals a game. Bryan is averaging 5.8 points and 6.5 rebounds.
Dutch Fork failed to close the deal in the 5-4A championship race, losing big to Irmo in the regular-season finale to fall back into a tie for first place with Orangeburg-Wilkinson. The Bruins were deemed the No. 1 playoff seed thanks to a sweep of third-place Irmo.
The Silver Foxes went 16-5 in the regular season under new coach Faye Norris. Senior Devin Pearson is averaging 12.1 points and 4.0 assists. Aliana Coates and Shyianne Oakman, DF’s twin 6-4 towers in the low post, have been dominant at times inside. Coastes, an eighth-grader with a bright future, is averaging 13.3 points, 10.6 rebounds, 2.2 steals and 2.9 blocks. Oakman, a junior, is averaging 9.8 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.5 blocks. Erin Houston and Donesha Shuler have also played well for DF. Houston, the senior point guard, 2.9 assists and 2.5 steals a game, while Shuler is at 6.8 ppg, 4.8 rpg, and 2.4 spg.
Dutch Fork went 21-12 in the playoffs under Long, advancing to the 4A state championship game three times but failing to land the big prize.
Irmo (17-7), 23-25 in playoff matters since the start of the modern era in 1971, plays at Beaufort tonight. Brooke McCants and Sarah Green have been the Yellow Jackets leaders to date. McCants is averaging 11.8 points and 2.7 assists, while inside Green is averaging 11.4 points and 7.4 rebounds. Briana Stanton has also had a nice season – 7.7 ppg, 2.3 spg and leads the team with 24 field goals from beyond the arc.
Ridge View (14-6) heads to Northwestern in a quest for its first-ever state playoff victory. The Blazers are 0-4 in the postseason to date. Destiny White leads a balanced RV team with a 12.6 scoring average, and is also averaging 3.8 assists and 2.4 steals a game. Maya Adams is averaging 6.3 points and 8.6 rebounds.
Blythewood (13-10) makes its 4A playoff debut at Region 3-3A champion Nation Ford in Fort Mill. The Bengals went 4-2 in the playoffs at the 3A level, advancing to the Upper State championship last season before falling to mighty J.L. Mann.
Sumter (12-9) travels to face Wando. The Gamecocks leaders are Brittany Starling and Shanice Cooper. Starling leads the team in scoring (9.7 ppg) and rebounding (8.3 rpg), while Cooper is averaging 8.6 points and tops the club in assists (3.6 apg), steals (2.9 spg) and 3-point field goals (18).
Sumter, 25-24 in the state playoffs through the years, is hoping to avoid another first-round exit. The Gamecocks lost in the playoff opener for the first time in 10 years last season.