By about 8 p.m. on Friday, we’ll know for sure if the dream match-up of Spring Valley vs. Dutch Fork in the Class 4A state girls basketball championship game becomes reality.
It has been 31 years since two Midlands girls team squared off in a state championship game, dating back to Lexington’s 80-40 rout of Camden in the 1979 Class 4A final.
Defending champion Spring Valley (25-2) needs one more win to return to Colonial Life Arena on March 5 for its second straight title shot under coach Anne Long. The Vikings face Greenwood (22-4) in the Upper State championship game Friday at 6:30 p.m. at the Bi-Lo center in Greenville.
Dutch Fork (21-5) takes on talented, highly motivated Goose Creek (25-1) in the Lower State championship game at 6:30 p.m. at The Citadel’s McAlister Field House.
Greenwood (23-4) had won 14 games in a row since losing 71-57 to Dutch Fork in the Taco Bell Invitational championship game in late December. The Eagles defeated Dorman 71-67 in overtime on Monday to advance to the state semifinals for the first time since their successful state championship run in 1996. In the process, Greenwood became the first team since 2001 to eliminate Dorman prior to the fourth round.
Guard Courtney Railford scored a game high 20 points for the Eagles against Dorman, while insiders Shaniqua Hunter (15 points, 12 rebounds) and Maranda Ethridge (13 points, 11 boards) both hung double-doubles on the Cavaliers.
Spring Valley has yet to be seriously challenge in the playoffs – blowing away Nation Ford (70-29), Hillcrest (71-29) and Northwestern (86-56) in the first three rounds to extend their postseason winning streak to eight games. The Vikings have won 14 in a row since losing to Redan (GA) in the Crescent Bank Holiday Invitational championship game in December. SV, ranked No. 1 in South Carolina, has not made any of the major national polls yet, even though to beat Peddie School (NJ), which is currently No. 25 on the Massey Top 25 list.
All five Vikings starters are in the groove. Xylina McDaniel is averaging 19.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 3.0 steals in the playoffs. Asia Dozier is averaging 16.7 points, 4.0 assists and 4.3 steals. Briana Robinson is 12.3 ppg and is shooting 7-for-12 from beyond the arc (58%), including a 5-for-6 performance from 3-point range on the way to 21 points vs. Northwestern. Inside, Jocelyn Lawrence is averaging 7.8 rebounds a game, and Savonia Bryan is at 7.3 ppg and 8.3 rpg. Shaquita Walker is averaging 9.3 points and 5.0 steals.
Dutch Fork rolled past West Ashley 70-37 in the third round to reach the semifinals for the first time in four years. The dynamic freshman duo of Donnesha Shuler and 6-4 Alaina Coates destroyed the Wildcats. Shuler rang up 27 points on 11-for-19 shooting from the field, grabbed 11 rebounds, dished out five assists and came up with three steals in a scintillating performance. Coates wasn’t, bad, either, scoring 20 points, hauled in 18 rebounds and blocking six WA shots.
For the season, Shuler has scored 477, two more than Coates, who is averaging 11.5 points and 4.2 blocks.
Goose Creek opened the season by beating both Dutch Fork and Spring Valley at the Vikings preseason tournament. The Gators lone loss was to the same Redan (GA) team that defeated Spring Valley in the high-profile Crescent Bank tournament in Myrtle Beach. GC enters the LS title bout riding a 16-game winning streak.
The once lowly program has been transformed under coach Tim Baldwin. Between 1971 and 2002, the GC girls team made the playoffs one time – in 1977. The Gators have been to the postseason party ever year since 2003 and are focused on earning their first state title shot after falling in the Lower State finals in 2004 (against Lower Richland) and last season against Orangeburg-Wilkinson.
Welch Aleighsa, a 6-0 junior, is the GC headliner, averaging 18.5 points, 10.2 rebounds, 3.1 steals and 2.8 assists a game.