Even during the previous summer, basketball teams throughout the Palmetto State have their eyes set to February and the five-game sprint to a potential championship.
Well … finally, we are here.
Following a season with more than its share of highs and lows, the postseason has arrived.
Eighteen squads from the Grand Strand qualified for this year’s playoff dance — among them 10 on the girls side.
Here is a look at opening-round matchups for teams on the Grand Strand:
Dutch Fork at Conway: Under most circumstances, 16 wins are more than enough to assuage any concerns about a basketball team. In essence, Conway’s season has been a success, ranked for a large portion of the season. Yet, its résumé lacks one thing — a defining win. Opportunities against Sumter and West Florence went by the wayside, but it gets one more shot in the first round of the Class 5A state playoffs. Dutch Fork will provide quite the test, led by Region V-5A Player of the Year Jordan Davis, who averages 19 points and six rebounds per game.
Socastee at Summerville: After a three-year hiatus, Socastee is back in the postseason, having earned Region VI-5A’s No. 4 spot. South Carolina signee Jason Cudd leads the way for the Braves, the 7-foot-1 talent averaging nearly 19 points and seven rebounds per game. He and his teammates will travel to Summerville, where Region VII-5A’s No. 3 team will be waiting. Following three consecutive losses in mid-January, the Green Wave have won eight of their past nine games — their only defeat at the hand of top-ranked Goose Creek.
Carolina Forest at Goose Creek: Despite not qualifying for one of the four playoff spots allotted to Region VI-5A, the Panthers were granted a lifeline Saturday morning, receiving word they would receive an at-large bid. Top-ranked Goose Creek awaits, however, the unquestioned champion of Region VII-5A after going undefeated through the league. The Gators have not lost to instate competition this season, nor have they tasted defeat since the calendar flipped to 2017.
Dreher at Myrtle Beach: While slightly disappointed with his team’s play of late, Myrtle Beach boys basketball coach Craig Martin couldn’t help but gush about its performance Thursday night, pummeling rival North Myrtle Beach to earn Region VII-4A’s No. 2-seed. By virtue of that victory, the Seahawks will host a solid Dreher squad, whose only losses in league play came to A.C. Flora and Lower Richland. Three Blue Devils are scoring in double figures, led by Simon Grant’s nearly 18 points per game. Drehsaun Jones (14.1 ppg) and T.J. Brown (11.3) are not far behind.
North Myrtle Beach at Lower Richland: Teams would like to roll into the playoffs with a bit of momentum. North Myrtle Beach has done just the opposite, losing its final two games. Coming into this past Thursday night’s game, the Chiefs had a shot at hosting in the first round of the Class 4A playoffs. Instead, they must made a lengthy trip to the Midlands to take on Lower Richland. The Diamond Hornets are led by Clemson signee Clyde Trapp Jr., who averages nearly 18 points and six rebounds per contest. Also averaging in double figures for them are Ja’Cor Nelson (15.4 ppg) and Tevaughn Higgins (11.8 ppg).
Manning at Loris: For the first time in three seasons, Loris rejoins the playoff party. Finishing tied for second in Region VI-3A, the Lions have won five of their last six games. Manning will come to call in Tuesday night’s postseason opener, qualifying as the No. 3 team in Region VII-3A. The Monarchs are led by Jalen White and Khalid Lackings, each of whom are averaging just shy of 10 points per game.
Waccamaw at Bishop England: Coming into Thursday night, there was a possibility for the Warriors to force a tiebreaker for first place in Region VI-3A. A loss to eventual league champion Dillon did away with that, however, forcing the Warriors into a No. 4-seed for the playoffs. Region VII-3A’s top team Bishop England now awaits, the Battling Bishops coming in winners of six straight — five of those during that stretch coming by 10 points or more.
Bamberg-Ehrhardt at Carvers Bay: Stymied by injuries early on, Carvers Bay has came on with a vengeance, winning nine of its past 10 games. The late-season surge helped the Bears claim the No. 2 spot in Region VII-2A and more importantly home-court advantage in first-round play. Dijon Goss leads them with just shy of 12 points per game, with Tyrik Reed and Jeremiah Greene both averaging in double figures. Paying them a visit is Bamberg-Ehrhardt, whose wins in three of its final four games allowed it to qualify as the No. 5 team from Region VI-2A.
Blythewood at Conway: An up-and-down regular season for Conway ended on a high note, as Zakera Chadmon’s jumper with 2 seconds remaining propelled it to a win over Carolina Forest. The shot not only ended the Tigers’ two-game slide, but delivered them a Region VI-5A title. Blythewood will be their dancing partner in the first round of the playoffs. Camryn Bostick leads the way for the Bengals with 11 points per game.
Ashley Ridge at Carolina Forest: No one was more happy for a week off than Carolina Forest, affording it time to heal mentally and emotionally from last week’s heartbreaking loss to Conway. Now stepping into one-and done territory, the Panthers will start their postseason journey with Ashley Ridge, which has lost six of its past eight games.
Socastee at Fort Dorchester: Despite knowing it was already in the playoffs, Socastee lost out on an opportunity to host a first-round game with a loss to Sumter last Monday. Now, it must make a long trip down the coast to Fort Dorchester, taking on Region VII-5A’s No. 4 team.
Dreher at Myrtle Beach: Myrtle Beach has not lost a game to instate competition since its loss to Dreher in last year’s Class 3A state title game. North Carolina signee Jaelynn Murray makes the Blue Devils’ engine go, averaging 24 points and 11 rebounds per game. Haliyah Sumpter provides an added punch, scoring nearly 12 points per contest. Dreher comes in sliding a bit, losing three of its last four games — though only one of those setbacks came by more than five points.
North Myrtle Beach at Orangeburg-Wilkinson: Chiefs coach Jude Hunt has to be thankful for the five days between games, particularly following a 29-point defeat at the hand of rival Myrtle Beach. Things don’t get all that easier, however, with North Myrtle Beach making a nearly three-hour drive to Orangeburg-Wilkinson. The Bruinettes have won 32 of their past 33 home playoff games, with the lone loss coming to Wilson a season ago.
St. James at Lower Richland: A season sweep of Marlboro County allowed the Sharks to sew up the final playoff spot out of Region VII-4A. Its reward is a trip to the Midlands to take on Region V-4A champion Lower Richland. The Diamond Hornets have won eight of their past 10 games, with their lone losses coming to Wilson and A.C. Flora.
Timberland at Loris: The Lions have mere days to put their loss to Dillon in the Region VI-3A title game behind them as they take on a Timberland squad that won two of its final three games to qualify in its league’s No. 3 position. Dominique Hamilton leads the Wolves with 10 points and eight rebounds per game.
Georgetown at Manning: Winners of three of their past five games, the Bulldogs qualified as the No. 3 team in Region VI-3A. They head to Manning, where a tough task awaits, with the Monarchs featuring three players scoring in double figures. Mahogany Green leads the team with nearly 12 points per game, while Kayla Goldsmith and Keyshunna Walker aren’t far behind.
Carvers Bay at Academic Magnet: Winners of three of its last four games, Carvers Bay earned a tie for third place in Region VII-2A. A tiebreaker did not go its way, though, forcing it to enter the playoffs as a No. 4 seed. Led by Taleaa Adams and Dymin Coles, the Bears will travel to the Charleston area to take on Academic Magnet. The Raptors are led by Ashley Bryan, who averages 12 points per contest.
Military Magnet at Green Sea Floyds: After falling on the tough end of a tiebreaker, the Trojans settle for the No. 2 spot out of Region VI-A. The combo of Tamara Jackson and Jalinda Johnson lead Green Sea Floyds with 17.3 and 13.8 points per game, respectively.
‘Fab 5’ Performances
Richmond Collier, Carolina Forest: Knocked down six 3-pointers in a 25-point night against Conway, albeit in a 61-54 loss.
Tamara Jackson, Green Sea Floyds: Had 23 points for the Trojans in a 53-37 win over Creek Bridge on Thursday.
Iklea Green, Loris: Knocked down four 3-pointers for Loris on Friday en route to a 22-point night, though the Lions would fall to Dillon, 65-44.
Kiana Adderton, Myrtle Beach: Scored 21 points and pulled down 19 rebounds in the Seahawks’ 60-28 win over Marlboro County.
Jalinda Johnson, Green Sea Floyds: Had 20 points for the Trojans in their 53-37 win over Creek Bridge.
1. Conway: Has done well all season long when the opponent wasn’t Sumter or West Florence on the other bench.
2. Christian Academy: The Saints look to claim a SCISA Region III-2A title over Trinity-Byrnes on Tuesday, the last team to beat them in league play.
3. Carvers Bay: No team has been hotter in the area as it has reeled off wins in nine of their 10 games.
1. Myrtle Beach: Seahawks have yet to lose to an instate opponent. Yet, a potential first-round stumbling block looms in Dreher.
2. Conway: The newly crowned Region VI-5A champions ride into the playoffs on a high, but can’t lose focus with the “second season” set to begin.
3. Carolina Forest: Panthers hope to rebound from a heartbreaking loss in season finale to Conway with a deep playoff run of their own.