Tonight’s championship game of the Modie Risher Holiday Classic will not include the host Burke Bulldogs, but there will be a decided Burke basketball flavor in the contest.
Fort Dorchester will face South Pointe of Rock Hill in the final, and the two head coaches have spent plenty of time in Burke’s gym over the years.
Fort Dorchester coach Leon Wheaton is a former assistant to Burke coaching legend Earl Brown while South Pointe coach Melvin Watson is a former all-state point guard at Burke, playing for the Bulldogs from 1989-93 before a stellar career at South Carolina.
Fort Dorchester assistant Jermel President also starred at Burke, playing in the same backcourt as Watson before an outstanding career at College of Charleston.
“It’s a great matchup I think and should be a fun game for the fans to watch,” said Wheaton. “I don’t know Melvin because he was here before I coached here but certainly for Jamel and Melvin, it’s a fun game. For me, it’s about the team we are playing and they are a really good basketball team.”
Fort Dorchester reached the final with an impressive 69-49 win over Burke in one semifinal game.
Junior guard Eric Heyward led Fort Dorchester with 17 points. Jalen Hooks and Diamonte Gilliard scored 12 points each as the Patriots had 10 players score for the second straight game.
Senior guard Craig Williams paced Burke with 20 points while Devon Smith added 12.
Fort Dorchester took control early, opening a 19-9 lead after one quarter. The Patriots’ largest lead was 19 at 28-9 as Burke struggled to make shots, hitting only three field goals in the first 11 minutes of the game.
Burke managed a late rally in the second quarter, trimming the halftime advantage to 36-22. The Bulldogs closed to within 40-28 but the Patriots closed the third quarter on a 10-4 run for a commanding 50-32 lead.
“We played well but we had some lapses in terms of taking care of the basketball and we cannot have those mistakes against South Pointe,” said Wheaton.
South Pointe (9-0) defeated Beaufort, 58-39, in the other semifinal.
Burke (49): Craig Williams 20, Devon Smith 12, Jones 7, Taylor 3, Washington 2, Sanders 2, Coaxum 3.
Fort Dorchester (69): Eric Heyward 17, Jalen Hooks 12, Diamonte Gilliard 12, Staggers 1, Moorer 8, Chisolm 2, Stevens 2, Carter 7, Middleton 1, Johnson 2, Munoz 2.
4 p.m. — Bethune Bowman vs. Manning
5:30 p.m. — Calhoun County vs. Timberland
7 p.m. — Beaufort vs. Burke
8:30 p.m. — South Pointe vs. Fort Dorchester