On the surface, a tiny school in downtown Charleston making it to the boys basketball Lower State Finals sounds like a Cinderella story.
But it only takes a little bit of research to see that Charleston Math & Science is supposed to be here. Riptide head coach Ryan Smith says his job is to make sure his guys know that so they can continue knocking teams out of the playoffs.
The latest victim was Bethune-Bowman, which lost to Charleston Math & Science, 54-40, on Tuesday night in the third round of the state playoffs. The win was symbolic because it was in the same round a year ago that Bethune-Bowman bounced the Riptide out of the playoffs.
“It kind of helps you get that bad taste out of your mouth,” Smith said about the win. “So it was a good night for us. But at this point, every team is good. So we can’t worry about who we’re playing. It’s about sticking to our game.”
The Riptide will play Scott’s Branch on Friday at 5:30 p.m. at the Florence Civic Center. The winner goes to the state championship March 7 in Columbia.
Once an unassuming squad, Charleston Math & Science has been a force the past three seasons. The Riptide lost in the first round of the playoffs in 2018 before reaching the third round last year. Now they’re two steps away from a state title game while boasting a league-best 21-3 record.
Smith says a huge chunk of the credit has to go to his four seniors who have been with him since their middle school days.
Guard Brandon Broughton and forward T.J. Simmons have been key contributors all season. And Wendell Seabrook and Dionte Williams are two of the biggest contributors on the team, with Seabrook averaging 13 points, 5.4 rebounds and 5.1 assists. Williams is averaging 12 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2 blocks.
“Everybody knows those are our guys,” he said. They’re our leaders on the floor and the rest of our team embraces that. And that’s the great thing about this team. Everyone knows their role.”
Earlier this month, Seabrook said personal accomplishments aren't important to him.
“It’s just about winning for me,” Seabrook. “We’ve all built a trust with each other and I think that’s why we’ve been so successful.”
Getting to the championship game will be a tall task for the Riptide. Scott’s Branch has posted 60 or more points 13 times this season, while the Charleston squad has done so 15 times.
It should be a high-scoring affair, but Smith says it’ll come down to which side can make some key defensive plays.
“We hang our hat on defense,” he said. “We’re giving up about 38 points per game. So if we can keep Scott’s Branch around 40 or 50, we think we have a good shot.”