The Charleston Collegiate Sun Devils boys basketball team has reached the SCISA Class AA state championship.
It was an accomplishment that took a lot of effort and didn't come easy.
The school had high expectations in the past only to have their dream of lifting the big trophy at the Sumter Civic Center denied.
"If I sat here and say we didn't think of shortcomings in the past, I'd be lying," coach Jay Godbolt said. "It seems like we'd get to the elite eight or the final four and then things wouldn't go our way. The big difference is the growth and leadership this team has demonstrated."
The Sun Devils are 27-3 after Thursday night's 89-44 victory over Thomas Sumter. They will play the winner of the Oakbrook Prep-Bible Baptist game Saturday at 4 p.m. for the Class AA title at the Sumter Civic Center.
"This group has experience," Godbolt said. "We have five seniors who have been through the battles. They are committed. You can feel that and their overall sense of dedication. Their goal was to make a deep run."
Two years ago, Charleston Collegiate was favored to win the state title but dropped a 62-61 heartbreaker to Spartanburg Christian to finish 22-5.
Last year, it was more of the same. The Sun Devils had an overall record of 24-6, including victories over Pinewood Prep, Porter-Gaud and First Baptist , but lost in the state semifinals.
The team is led by Ty Solomon and Je'Quan Perry, but is hardly two-dimensional. Manny Smalls, Arturo Mata and Ki'Shon Chadwick all have key roles.
Sololmon is averaging 16.7 points, 7.0 assists, six rebounds and 4.0 steals a game while Perry is even more impressive with 20.3 points, 10.4 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 3.2 steals a game.
"They have grown so much and developed basketball skills over the years," Godbolt said.
"They are willing to do the hard work and that sends a message to the younger kids. They know they have to work, too."
Manny Smalls, who transferred from James Island, average 10.1 points and 5.3 rebounds per game while Chadwick, who also transferred from James Island, has collected 6.0 points and 3.7 steals a game.
Matta's numbers include 8.0 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.0 steals per game.
"This year's team seems more in tune," Godbolt said. "We enjoy big games because people want to beat us and we want to prove our worth."
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