Basketball playoffs set to start

A host of area high school basketball teams will begin their state championship quests this week, with games starting on Monday in the South Carolina High School League brackets.

Class AAA and Class A girls will tip off the postseason on Monday night with first-round games to follow in the other classifications on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The Lowcountry has two schools seeking to repeat as state champions. Burke is the defending Class A boys state champion, while Bishop England’s girls have won the last two AA state titles. In fact, Bishop England is seeking a fifth consecutive trip to the finals, having won three of the last four championships.

“I think our team is ready to go, ready to see other teams and compete at a high level,” coach Paul Runey said. “This team has put in a lot of hard work. I think we have the ability to do what it takes to make another run but we still have to go out and get it done. The Lower State is really good this year. We know we have to play well to win.”

Another area contender for a state championship is the Goose Creek girls team, which enters the playoffs with a 20-2 record and riding a 10-game winning streak. Coach Tim Baldwin’s squad lost in the AAAA finals to Spring Valley a year ago and has played in three of the last six AAAA title games, winning in 2009-10.

The Ashley Ridge girls enter the playoffs as Region 8-AAAA champions for the first time in school history. Ashley Ridge ended Summerville’s string of four consecutive region titles this season. Both teams will have first-round home games on Tuesday.

Burke’s girls are ranked fifth in Class A and open the playoffs at home on Monday night against Allendale-Fairfax. The Lady Bulldogs are seeking to become the first state champions in girls basketball in school history.

On the boys’ side, James Island is the hottest team in the area as the playoffs begin. The Trojans wrapped up a 10-0 run through Region 7-AAAA on Friday with a win over West Ashley and carry an 18-3 record into the postseason.

James Island returned three starters from last year’s team that advanced to the AAAA Lower State finals. Coach Stan Wilkins believes his team is playing its best basketball of the season.

“I think everything started coming together over these last five games or so,” Wilkins said. “We’re playing together and playing with a lot of confidence. The playoffs are tricky, though. It’s one and done from here on out so we really have to bring our best every single night.”

Fort Dorchester opens the playoffs at home after going undefeated in region 8-AAAA. The Patriots host South Florence, the fourth-place finisher in a wild region 6-AAAA race. The Bruins went into the last week of the season with a chance to win the region.

Hanahan finished as the runner-up in Region 8-AAA and will host Brookland-Cayce on Tuesday night. Berkeley, the fourth-place finisher in Region 8, visits defending AAA state champion Midland Valley in a first-round game on Tuesday.

Bishop England won its way into the AA playoffs by closing out the regular season with three consecutive wins. Burke will begin its defense of the Class A boys title at home against Allendale-Fairfax on Tuesday.