High School Sports

2A boys, girls S.C. basketball preview

Boys: Top seniors

Sidney Sanders, Burke

Bradley Smith, Keenan

Justin Peeples, Wade Hampton

Deonte Johnson, Marion

Calvin Herbert, Mid-Carolina

Girls: Top seniors

Latifah Coleman, Central Pageland

Mallory Molony, Bishop England

Michelle Beaufort, Timberland

Alexis Jones, Burke

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BOYS AT A GLANCE

The favorite: Wade Hampton

The Red Devils lost three starters from last year's lower state runner-ups.

But they return nine players including point guard Justin Peeples and center Thomas Griffin, so coach Shelby Strother feels like he has a solid nucleus returning.

The drawback is they lack height in the frontcourt. Wade Hampton will try to offset that with a full-court, trapping defense.

"We felt like we let one get away last year against Mullins," Strother said. "Every night is a challenge for us because we are so small. We don't start a guy over 6-foot but we are going to battle you and press you and try to get teams to play our style."

Five other contenders

KEENAN: Raiders senior Bradley Smith is the team's leader. It remains to be seen if Keenan will replace two-time defending champion Southside as the representative from the upper state.

MARION: Deonte Johnson is back to try and lead the Swamp Foxes past the first round, where they were upset last year. Marion is long and athletic and that will cause many teams matchup problems.

BURKE: Sidney Sanders is a top-5 player in 2A and he could be enough to get the Bulldogs back to the state finals after a one-year hiatus.

ABBEVILLE: The Panthers are are waiting to see if they are the team to unseat Southside in the Upper State finals.

CENTRAL: Senior Kegan Funderburk does it all for a team that reached the second round and could make a much deeper run this year.

- Chris Dearing

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GIRLS AT A GLANCE

The favorite: Marion

Candace Wright and Geneika Brantley return from the team that delivered the Swamp Foxes' first state championship since 1955. They combined to score 30 points in the title game.

Seven other players return, so coach Leon Sturkey feels good about his team's chances.

"It's an honor to be picked the preseason number one," Sturkey said. "That is probably based on what we did last year but if you look at our team, we have plenty of talent returning. Hopefully we can live up to the billing."

Five other contenders

SOUTHSIDE: The Tigers lost four seniors but played several sophomore and freshmen in reaching the third round last year. Chelsea Walker and McKenzie Weston are the top returning scorers.

EAU CLAIRE: The Shamrocks were a point away from the Upper State final. With senior Janae Stevenson and juniors Amelia Curry and Ebony Ross back, Eau Claire could be the pick to come through the upper state.

STROM THURMOND: The Rebels lost Courtney Mealing to graduation but almost everyone else returns. They could sneak up on teams since Mealing was such a large part of the offense.

SILVER BLUFF: The Bulldogs were 21-4 last year but lost three seniors. Junior Jamie Foreman scored 15.8 points per game to lead the way.

TIMBERLAND: The Wolves have two players in Michelle Beaufort and Rakeska Brown that can match up against anybody.

- Chris Dearing

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