The Midlands will be well-represented in this year’s preseason polls as teams prepare for the 2017-18 campaign.
In the Class 5-A poll, Lower State champion Blythewood enters the year as the number two team in the preseason poll. Three spots below the Bengals are the Sumter Gamecocks. Rounding out the top 10 for Class 5-A are longtime head coach Tim Whipple and the Irmo Yellow Jackets.
Blythewood’s Robert Braswell, Irmo’s Winston Hill, and Sumter’s Isiah Moore were all selected as three of the top five senior boys in Class 5-A.
For the Class 5-A girls, Spring Valley checks in at number five while Irmo opens the year at number eight. Madison Golden of Dutch Fork is the lone Midlands representative among the top five senior girls for Class 5-A.
Class 4-A has four of the top 10 teams in the boys’ preseason poll. Defending champion Lower Richland starts the season one spot behind top-ranked Wilson. Lakewood and Ridge View each have a spot in the poll at four and five respectively. Westwood sneaks in the poll at number 10.
Lakewood’s Grant Singleton and A.C. Flora’s Diamonte Brown were among the top five senior boys in Class 4-A.
The Class 4-A girls poll is filled with talent from the Midlands. Ridge View and Westwood have been selected at number two and three respectively behind North Augusta. Richland Northeast and Crestwood break into the top half of the poll and four and five while Cedrick Simpson and the Orangeburg-Wilkinson Bruinettes come in at number six.
Three of these teams also have three of the top five senior girls in Class 4-A. A.C. Flora’s Jordan Strange, Richland Northeast’s Sharita Godfrey, and Crestwood Jah’Che Whittfield each hope to lead their teams to a state title this year.
Newberry and Brookland-Cayce are the only two teams in the Class 3-A boys’ poll. The Bulldogs are listed at number four while the Bearcats, who come off a Lower State title game appearance a year ago, open the year at number five.
The Bearcats will have one of the top five senior boys in Dominique Perry at their disposal this year in their quest to win a state title. He is joined on the list by Swansea’s Effix Miller and Fairfield Central’s MonQuayveous McBride.
Newberry also finds itself in the number two slot in the Class 3-A girls preseason poll after coming up just short of winning a state title last season. Joining the Lady Bulldogs in the poll are Fairfield Central at eight and Swansea at nine.
Kelsey Felks will take one last shot at winning a state title this year as one of the top five senior girls in Class 4-A. Joining Felks on the list representing the Midlands is Manning’s Mahogany Green.
A year ago, Keenan was one win shy of taking home the Class 2-A state title. This year, head coach Zach Norris and the Raiders the preseason favorites to win it all and the top team in the Class 2-A boys’ poll. Behind the Raiders are Zam Fredrick and the Calhoun County Saints at two and the Gray Collegiate War Eagles at three.
The lone representative for the Midlands among the top five senior boys is Saluda’s Zach Johnson.
The Class 2-A girls polls sees Batesburg-Leesville check in at number three while Keenan follows the Lady Panthers at the number four spot. Two spots behind the Lady Raiders is Saluda. The Lady Tigers are led by Star Ergle, who was named one of the top five senior girls in Class 2-A. Batesburg-Leesville’s Malaysia Gates and Keenan’s Logan Taylor-McDaniel are also on the list.
The Class A boys also has four teams from our viewing area. Bethune-Bowman looks to finish what they started a year ago after falling to defending state champion and top-ranked Hemingway. The Mohawks will start the season at number three on the poll. Two spots behind them is another Orangeburg County team in Hunter-Kinard-Tyler. Behind those Trojans are another set of trojan in Ridge Spring-Monetta. Rounding out the top 10 is McBee.
In the Class A girls poll, Ridge Spring-Monetta comes in at number three while H-K-T will start the season at number nine. Ridge Spring-Monetta will have senior Crystal Preston on their roster this season. Preston was named one of the five top senior girls in Class A.
Three of five boys’ basketball players named SCBCA Preseason Elite can be seen at schools here in the Midlands. Former A.C. Flora star Christian Brown transfers to Lower Richland in hopes of helping the Hornets defend their state title under head coach Caleb Gaither. Sumter’s CJ Felder and Gray Collegiate’s Juwan Gary will also take the floor in hopes of capturing a state title as well.
Westwood’s Unique Drake and Swansea’s Danae McNeal are among the best on the SCBCA Preseason Elite girls’ list.
You can see each poll and list in the document below:
Players and teams will be honored at the South Carolina Basketball Coaches Association Preseason Banquet today at noon. The SCHSL basketball season officially begins on November 27.
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