JOHNS ISLAND — Sun Devil Arena was the high school basketball mecca of South Carolina on Monday night.
Porter-Gaud, the No. 1 boys team in SCISA Class AAA, played Charleston Collegiate, the No. 1 team in SCISA Class AA, and the small venue with the impressive moniker was filled to the brim with fans.
Also in attendance were recruiters from College of Charleston, Wofford, Charleston Southern, The Citadel and Appalachian State — schools that wanted to get an up-close and personal look at talented players such as Porter-Gaud’s K.J. James and Michael Preddy, and Charleston Collegiate’s Ty Solomon, Je’Quan Perry and Khalil Davis.
The showdown was a high-skilled, high-intensity and highly entertaining 32 minutes of basketball.
The Cyclones, on this night, proved to be too much for Charleston Collegiate. They jumped to a 20-18 lead at the end of the first quarter, built a 41-26 halftime lead and held on for a 75-70 victory.
“Wow, that was two really talented teams with a lot of skilled players,” Porter-Gaud coach John Pearson said. “It’s even more fun because I know their coaching staff. I coached AAU basketball with one of them (Antoine Saunders). I’m very happy. I am even happy with the second half.
“There’s no way you expect to have a 16-point lead and not have a team like that come back. But we made a couple of key plays and kept them at bay.”
Charleston Collegiate celebrated coach Jay Godbolt’s 300th career victory on Saturday when the Sun Devils beat St. Andrew’s of Savannah. But the momentum stalled when the Cyclones came to visit.
“I think the moment got to us,” Godbolt said. “We try to play an inside game, but we tried too many 3-point attempts. We forgot that 3-point attempts lead to transition baskets. We shot ourselves out of it in the first half.”
James led all scorers with 21 points. He had plenty of help as the Cyclones placed five players in the double-figure column.
Sterling Smalls had 15 points and Preddy added 14, while Robert Cochrane and Angle Skelly chipped in 10 apiece.
Perry led the Sun Devils with 18 points, including 13 in the second half. Solomon added 16 points, including 13 in the second half. Davis tallied 13 points and Matthew McClain 12.
Porter-Gaud upped its record to 19-3. The Sun Devils fell to 23-5 in a big-time tuneup for the state playoffs, which culminate later this month at the Sumter County Exhibition Center.
Don’t be surprised if both teams make appearances in their respective title games.
“Any time you play Porter-Gaud, it’s going to prepare you,” Godbolt said. “I don’t know if we will see any team like Porter-Gaud in the playoffs. When you play Porter-Gaud, you know you are going to get their best shot. We just have to learn and get better.”