Tommy Bruner started his high school basketball career with a state title. He hopes to finish it with another this weekend.
Bruner and Gray Collegiate go for their second straight Class 2A title Saturday against Andrew Jackson.
Bruner has been well-traveled during his high school career, playing five years on the varsity level at three different Columbia-area schools. He played alongside Seventh Woods, Xavier McDaniel Jr. and Chevez Goodwin on Hammond’s SCISA 3A championship team in 2015.
But he spent only one year at Hammond and went to Spring Valley where he played alongside his brother Jordan Burner and helped the Vikings to a trip to the Class 4A Upper State title game. He arrived at Gray Collegiate in his sophomore year and been part of two state title appearances.
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“There are reasons behind it,” Bruner said of switching schools. ”I went to Hammond so I could play on varsity level and Seventh Woods wanted me to come there. I would have stayed there but my brother couldn’t come there because you had to play two years there. So, I went to Spring Valley and I knew I was going to play one year.
“Then I wanted to go to Gray and play with everyone I grew up with. Lot of people didn’t know why, but when people understand why that makes sense.”
Bruner wanted to play alongside longtime friend Khalil Robinson and Juwan Gary, who left this year to play his senior season at Liberty Heights in Charlotte. With Gary gone, Bruner and Robinson have emerged as the team’s top scoring options.
Bruner is averaging 16.2 points a game and Robinson at 13.3. The two backcourt mates remain good friends but still have their share of battles with one another.
“We grew up together. Having him in the backcourt relieves so much pressure off me. In practice we go at it all the time,” Robinson said. “That is what good about him. He’s got that edge to him. He doesn’t want to let anyone beat him.”
Bruner said his competitive nature sometimes gets the best of him but never will jeopardize his team in any way. He has worked to tone down his attitude, said Gray Collegiate coach Dion Bethea, who has been amazed with Bruner’s growth since arriving at the school.
“He’s a dog, such a competitor and wanting to put his team over the top. Having him with us the last three years have been amazing,” Bethea said. “We want him to continue to be him but we wanted to make sure it was a growing process across the board. Anytime there would be any sign of frustration, we would find another outlet.
“Getting in the gym following the game after a loss. That kid took the time and did that, and it’s been fun to see his development.”
Championship game schedule
At Colonial Life Arena in Columbia
Admission is $12
TV: Games will be carried locally on WACH 57.2. Ridge View and Wilson’s game will be on WACH 57.
INTERNET: All games will be streamed on www.nfhsnetwork.com (subscription required)
RADIO: Andrew Jackson-Gray Collegiate, Spring Valley and Ridge View games will be carried on 102.7 FM and online and the station’s app.
Class A Girls Championship
High Point Academy vs. Scott’s Branch, 3:30 p.m.
Class A Boys Championship
High Point Academy vs. Hemingway, 5 p.m.
Class 5A Girls Championship
Spring Valley vs. Goose Creek, 7 p.m.
Class 5A Boys Championship
Berkeley vs. Dorman, 8:30 p.m.
Class 2A Girls Championship
Christ Church vs. Mullins, 10:30 a.m.
Class 2A Boys Championship
Gray Collegiate vs. Andrew Jackson, noon
Class 3A Girls Championship
Keenan vs. Bishop England, 2 p.m.
Class 3A Boys Championship
Keenan vs. Ridgeland-Hardeeville, 3:30 p.m.
Class 4A Girls Championship
North Augusta vs. South Pointe, 5:30 p.m.
Class 4A Boys Championship
Wilson vs. Ridge View, 7 p.m.