For Lake Marion seniors Khalil Halls and Mike Williams, tonight’s 7 p.m. third-round S.C. High School League Class 2-A matchup against Dillon is not just their final home game in “The Swamp.”
It’s also an opportunity to avenge their school losses in other sports to the Wildcats, including a 57-0 pasting this past November in football to the eventual Class 2-A Division I champions.
“This is our last chance to beat this team and tomorrow will be our last time playing on that floor,” Halls said.
The top-ranked Gators (22-1) have won 15 straight, but are coming off a 52-50 win over eighth-ranked Marion. It was the first game during the streak decided by less than 10 points and came down to two free throws by Williams.
Both Halls and Brown believe the close win was actually a blessing in that it showed how the Gators could perform under fire.
“We just needed a game like that because we wanted to see how we would do under pressure,” Halls said.
Brown expects the Wildcats to try to match Lake Marion’s pressure defense and overwhelm then with their depth. Winners of 10 straight and the Region 8-AA champions, Dillon (18-7) is coming off a 69-59 victory over Mullins and has five players (forwards Olajawen Felton and Erireon Hayes and guards John Caulder, Jalik Bethea and Breon Page) averaging in double figures.
The winner will face either Wade Hampton or Silver Bluff in Saturday’s Lower State final at the Florence Civic Center. As far as All-Stater Halls is concerned, tonight’s contest is just as big as any final.
“Nothing is more important than leaving good memories on the court,” he said. “Out of all the games I’ve played, tomorrow night is the most important.”
SCISA CLASS 3-A PLAYOFFS
Orangeburg Prep vs. Augusta Christian
Mention “ninety-six” and some would immediately reference the Palmetto State town of the same name.
For the Orangeburg Prep boys’ basketball team, it’s a number which has served to galvanize them in their quest for the SCISA Class 3-A title. To reach that elusive goal, all the Indians have to do is play 96 minutes of winning basketball over three games.
“Once you get to the postseason, every game could be the last one,” Ripley said. “So, you want to make sure you go out and work your hardest to keep going. Like I told our guys, we’ve got 96 minutes and you can be a state champion if you play hard for 96 minutes. That’s what we’re hoping we can do. All we can do is work hard, put our work in and hope for the best.”
The clock starts ticking at 5 p.m. today at the Sumter Exhibition Center when OPS (18-12) faces second-seeded Augusta Christian (19-5) in a quarterfinal matchup. It’s the first meeting this season between the Indians and Lions, with the winner scheduled to face either Heathwood Hall or Hammond in Friday’s semifinal.
“They’re looking to prove something that they deserve the seeding that they got and the praise they’re receiving,” Ripley said.
Ripley is hoping for a similar effort from Saturday, when the Indians pulled off a 62-59 win over Pinewood Prep. Senior guards Paul Trimmier and Chris Hudson led by example by combining for 39 points and junior forward Davanian Murray added 11 in the win.
Ripley credited Trimmier, Hudson and fellow seniors Kyle Stokes, Morris Mirmow, Hobie Dennis and Damon Manley with providing strong leadership entering the postseason. He’s also praised the play of Murray.
“He’s been a real emotional leader for us,” Ripley said. “He’s come up big for us.”
As much as “96 minutes” is a goal, Ripley wants to see the Indians put together 32 minutes of solid play against a guard-oriented, athletic Lions’ team before looking ahead to Friday and possibly Saturday.
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