Several area basketball programs seek to take big steps on Saturday as the state basketball playoffs enter the final week of play.
South Carolina High School League programs are playing in the Lower and Upper State championship games this weekend in Florence and Greenville, respectively, while the South Carolina Independent Schools Association (SCISA) will decide its state champions on Saturday in Sumter.
The Florence Civic Center will host all of the SCHSL Lower State championship games with four local teams contending for a spot in next weekend’s finals.
Burke girls are playing in their first Lower State final after a miraculous 46-45 win over Estill on Monday night. Burke junior guard Kamirah Jenkins hit a game-winning shot from half court to win the game. The shot was one of the top 10 plays on ESPN’s Sportscenter.
Burke (19-4) will take on perennial Class A powerhouse Timmonsville at 11 a.m. Timmonsville is 24-0 this season and won the 2011-12 state championship. Timmonsville beat defending Lower State champion Latta on Monday night.
The Bishop England girls program is seeking a fifth consecutive trip to the Class AA finals. Coach Paul Runey’s program has won three of the last four state championships, including the last two. Bishop England (24-2) knocked off nemesis Dillon in the Lower State semifinals and will face Mullins (17-4) at 2 p.m.
Timberland is making its second-straight appearance in the Class AA Boys Lower State championship game. The Wolves lost to Hardeeville-Ridgeland in last year’s game, but upset the top-ranked Jaguars on Wednesday night. The 22-5 Wolves will battle 20-5 Dillon at 3:30 p.m.
“I think we’re playing our best basketball of the season right now so our guys are confident,” Timberland coach Jerome Stewart said.
West Ashley team is making its first appearance in the boys Lower State finals, taking on perennial power Irmo in the Class AAAA Lower State finals at 6:30 p.m.
The Wildcats (21-4) have been rock solid in the postseason after finishing as the Region 7-AAAA runner-up. Irmo (23-4) is playing in the state semifinals for the fourth time in the last six years. Irmo has won five state championships, including 2011 and 2013, and coach Tim Whipple has 697 career victories. He gave current West Ashley head coach Ronnie DuPre his first coaching job.
“He was my mentor,” DuPre said of Whipple “He is one of my best friends in coaching and he’s the best coach in this state. They are the landmark program in this state and it’s an honor to get a chance to play them.”
DuPre and Whipple met each other twice in state championship games. Irmo beat DuPre’s James Island team in the Class AAAA finals in 1991, while DuPre led James Island to a championship over Irmo the following season.
The Lowcountry will be well-represented in the SCISA state finals on Saturday.
Charleston Collegiate will play Anderson Christian at 12:30 p.m. at the Sumter Civic Center for the SCISA Class A boys championship. The Sun Devils are led by the scorer in the Lowcountry — Kegan Boone — who averages 23.2 points per game this season.
The Class AAA girls title game will be a matchup of surprising Porter-Gaud against defending state champion Northwood Academy at 6:30 p.m. Porter-Gaud (18-12) reached the finals for the first time since 2004 with an upset win (48-40) over Hammond School on Friday night.
Northwood (27-3) had no trouble with Pinewood Prep in the other Class AAA semifinal game, winning 68-21. Northwood beat Porter-Gaud three times during the regular season by an average of 49 points.
The boys Class AAA game will involve the same two schools as Northwood and Porter-Gaud. Northwood upset defending state champion Hammond, 61-57, in a semifinal game on Friday night. The Chargers (21-10) lost to Hammond in the state finals last season. Porter-Gaud (24-3) topped Heathwood Hall on Friday night. The Cyclones beat Northwood twice during the regular season.
SCHSL lower state finals
Class A girls – Burke vs Timmonsville
11 a.m. – Florence Civic Center
Class AA girls – Bishop England vs. Mullins
2 p.m. – Florence Civic Center
Class AA boys – Timberland vs. Dillon
3:30 p.m. – Florence Civic Center
Class AAAA boys – West Ashley vs. Irmo
6:30 p.m. –Florence Civic Center
SCISA state finals
Class A boys – Charleston Collegiate vs. Anderson Christian
12:30 p.m. – Sumter Civic Center
Class AAA girls
Northwood Academy vs. Porter-Gaud
6:30 p.m. – Sumter Civic Center
Class AAA boys
Northwood Academy vs. Porter-Gaud
8 p.m. – Sumter Civic Center