COLUMBIA – Lake Marion boys’ basketball coach Roy Brown voiced his “appreciation” Wednesday as the S.C. Basketball Coaches Association ranked his team as the preseason No. 1 in Class 2-A.
“We want to thank you for giving us this prestigious honor,” he told the crowd at Seawell’s Restaurant in attendance for the SCBCA preseason banquet. “Now that we have a target on our back, everybody’s going to be chasing us.”
The same sentiment was expressed by Orangeburg-Wilkinson girls’ basketball coach Joshua Staley. A year after losing to Dutch Fork in the Class 4-A finals, the Bruinettes received the top preseason ranking in Class 3-A.
“I really didn’t expect that,” Staley said. “I thought it would have probably been Dreher. Winning the state championship and four of their five starters coming back. It’s an honor ... it shows that your peers think highly of us.”
Both the Gators and Bruinettes appear more focused on finishing the season on top than preseason polls.
“I tell my players I don’t ever worry about rankings in the preseason,” Brown said. “I only want to be at the top at the end when it counts.”
“You’ve got to keep digging,” Staley said. “I think the kids are doing the right thing by working hard. In life, you’re going to have some shortcomings. I know you can’t quit. We came up short the last two times we were there. You’ve got to keep working, keep digging, keep believing in what we’re doing.”
Both the Bruinettes and Gators will get tested early in their non-region schedule. O-W opens on Nov. 27 at Spring Valley and has December games against Eau Claire and 10th-ranked Calhoun County in Class A.
Lake Marion has contests against the fifth-ranked Saints, who along with eight-ranked Woodland were also listed in the Class 2-A preseason poll, and start play at home Nov. 30 against the third-ranked Bruins.
The match-up in Santee will pit two players in the Gators’ Khalil Halls and the Bruins’ Tashombe Riley who were selected among the top five in their classification. Riley was also selected as one of the top six “Elite” players in the entire state.
“I’m honored to be one of the top players,” Riley said. “There’s a lot of good players and they chose me as one of them.”
“It’s a large target,” said Halls about the top ranking and Top Five selection. “Everybody is going to be excited to play us, especially me being chosen one of the Top Five (in Class 2-A).”
Bethune-Bowman’s Carl Heyward was also selected as a Top Five player in Class A.
“It’s a great honor,” Heyward said. “There’s a lot of great players in my classification. I just happy to be one of them.”
Shawanda Ferguson of 10th-ranked Blackville-Hilda was the lone T&D Region girls’ player selected as one of the Top Five in Class A. Upper State runner-up Denmark-Olar was ranked third in the preason girls’ Class A poll, while Hunter-Kinard-Tyler placed fifth in the boys.
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