High School Basketball

Youthful Swansea girls team ahead of schedule

Swansea High School head coach Tamara McNeal-Perdue, right, participates in a drill with her daughter, Danae McNeal
Swansea High School head coach Tamara McNeal-Perdue, right, participates in a drill with her daughter, Danae McNeal online@thestate.com

The rebuilding process with the Swansea girls’ basketball program is ahead of schedule.

With one of the youngest roster in the Midlands, the Tigers are off to a 14-0 start and are the No. 1 ranked team in Class 3A in the South Carolina High School Basketball Coaches Poll.

“I did expect them to be successful, but not this early,” Swansea coach Tamara McNeal-Perdue said. “They are so young, but a lot of them have been in gym working all summer.”

McNeal-Perdue, in her seventh season as head coach, is trying to get the Tigers back to glory days of the program. Swansea won 1995 state title and made it to 2004 state semifinals. Since 2009, Swansea has had just one winning season and its last region title came in 2007.

Swansea is led by sophomore Danae McNeal and freshmen Zharia Gillins and Lauryn Robinson. The trio accounts for 78 percent of the Tigers scoring. They have been playing together since they were 5 in the Swansea recreation leagues.

McNeal, the coach’s daughter, is the leader and is one of the top scorers in the Midlands. The 5-foot-10 guard averages 26.3 points a game, 8.2 rebounds and leads the area with 6.0 steals a game. She has offers from South Carolina and Clemson and interest from several other Division I schools.

“Growing up playing with Lauryn and Zharia watching my brother motivated me to get better,” Danae McNeal said.

“She always been around the game,” McNeal-Perdue said. “.My sister played basketball and she has a brother that plays at Limestone. It is in our blood. We love the game. And she has spent a lot of time working on her game and getting better.”

McNeal has plenty of help in Robinson, Gillings and senior Alexis James. Robinson averages 15.5 points and leads the Midlands with 11.6 rebounds. Gillings is third on the team in scoring at 10.4 points a game

“We built it from the ground up and I am glad to be a part of this team because we have come together as a family,” Robinson said.

Robinson said the team has embraced the expectations with the No. 1 ranking.

“To have the No. 1 spot is kind of good. I like it,” she said. “Everyone wants to knock us off. I believe this year and next year we will be getting plaques on the wall (for championships).”