Dreher opened the season as one of the preseason favorites to contend for the Class 3A girls state championship.
Then the Blue Devils received an added bonus with the transfer of Kamryn Lemon. The junior point guard moved in from Lakewood, and the transition has been beneficial to both.
Lemon scored 20 points and spearheaded a strong attack to lead Dreher to a 59-41 victory over Lower Richland on Tuesday night in the Region 4-3A opener for both teams.
“Kamryn has been a big asset to the team,” Dreher coach Teresa Jones said. “She can handle the ball and shoot well from the outside. I thought what she did tonight was run our offense pretty well and that allowed us to be successful.”
Lower Richland coach Debbie Stroman thought the play of Lemon was crucial to the Blue Devils’ success. She was able to penetrate into the lane and set up junior Jaelynn Murray and senior Jhileiya Dunlap for easy baskets.
“She was the catalyst for tonight’s game,” Stroman said. “She was able to make everybody on her team look really good. She was able to do some things that a lot of times guards don’t do against us. She was able to dribble-penetrate and dish off. She knocked downed the three. She’s a big, strong body and we had trouble guarding her.”
Lemon wasn’t a one-person show though. Murray finished with 21 points, 12 rebounds and six blocks, while Dunlap added 16 points, nine rebounds and eight blocks.
Those three combined for 57 of 59 points, and that has been a regular theme as Dreher is 12-1 and ranked No. 2 in the latest SCBCA statewide poll.
“The big three have been the ones that have dominated our offense, and that’s a nice element to have,” Jones said. “If one is off, usually the other two are on. Tonight, I thought all three played well.”
As well as the offense flowed through those three, the defense was equally impressive. The Blue Devils opened the game intent that junior guard and Kentucky commitment Kameron Roach would not beat them. They ran Eboni Jones and Kaleah Hires at her in a variety of defensive looks and it seemed to be effective.
They limited Roach to four points, all in the first half.
“We knew she was one of their top players and the offense flowed through her, so we wanted to try offset them a little bit and running a junk defense at them,” Jones said. “We hoped that would take her out of her element and get her frustrated.”
The Blue Devils built a double-digit lead early in the third quarter and never looked back. They forced the Diamonds (6-7, 0-1) into 25 turnovers, and thanks to a 15-0 run that sandwiched the third and fourth quarters, had one of the bigger victories at the Diamond Mine in more than a decade.
“The girls were eager, and usually when they’re that eager, I have to be leery,” Jones said. “But they kept composure and were able to pull away in the third quarter to open the lead up by forcing turnovers and getting easy baskets.”
Lower Richland boys 60, Dreher 32
The Diamonds used a balanced attack and a strong first half in a relatively easy 60-32 victory. Lower Richland led by 10 after one quarter, increased it to a 33-12 lead at the half and coasted to the region opening victory.
After a sluggish third quarter by both teams, the Diamonds scored 19 points in the final quarter to seal the win.
Carlos Nuttry scored 16 for Lower Richland (4-9, 1-0) and Kelvin Washington added 12.
Dreher 59, Lower Richland 41
D: Jaelynn Murray 21, Kamryn Lemon 20, Jhileiya Dunlap 16, Hires 2. LR: Dejah Williford 15, Adams 6, A. Washington 6, Roach 4, Nuttry 3, S. Washington 2, Bolton 2, Hicklin 2, Archie 1.
Lower Richland 60, Dreher 32
D: Parr 9, Hutcherson 7, Grant 6, Rush 6, Myers 2, Hampton 2. LR: Carlos Nuttry 16, Kelvin Washington 12, Nelson 8, Trapp 8, Jones 6, Harris 5, Higgins 2, Jackson 2, Reece 1.