Tough roads for 4 Midlands hoops teams lead to chance to repeat title runs

Tough roads for 4 Midlands hoops teams lead to chance to repeat title runs
From left: Reggie McLain (Keenan girls basketball head coach), Megan Assey (Spring Valley girls basketball head coach), Dion Bethea (Gray Collegiate boys basketball head coach), Yerrick Stoneman (Ridge View boys basketball head coach) all look to lead their programs to back-to-back state championships this weekend.

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - What’s better than one championship ring? Two!

That’s the mindset of four Midlands high school basketball teams who look to defend their crowns as state champions this weekend at Colonial Life Arena.

In girls’ basketball, Keenan and Spring Valley each hope to capture another state title in Class 3-A and Class 5-A respectively. The Lady Raiders will take on perennial state title contender Bishop England on Saturday at 2 p.m. One day before that, the Lady Vikings will face Lower State champion Goose Creek at 7 p.m.

In boys’ basketball action, Gray Collegiate battles Andrew Jackson -- a team making its first state championship appearance since 1980 -- on Saturday at noon. To cap off the Weekend of Champions at Colonial Life Arena, Ridge View squares off against Ridge View at 7 p.m. on Saturday.

For Keenan’s girls, the season didn’t start out as well as they would have liked, but the Lady Raiders embraced the challenge of getting the best games from their opponents each night.

“I think it was a little harder because we had a youthful group,” said Keenan girls baskeball head coach Reggie McLain. “We’ve got a really young team. No seniors. So, it was a little tougher, but the girls set out. They wanted to make sure they got a chance to compete for a state [championship] in the preseason and the regular season. So, we’ll get our chance to get back up here and play again.”

Spring Valley’s road was also tough, but the Lady Vikings are thrilled to play for another state title.

“It means everything,” said Spring Valley girls basketball head coach Megan Assey. “We love this group. This group is very competitive. Just good kids. They’ve become like daughters to me. But winning and winning consistently is hard to do. That says a lot. It’s a testament about these kids and the work ethic they bring on a daily basis.”

For Gray Collegiate, navigating a tough schedule wasn’t easy, but it helped them get to the title game. Facing some of the nation’s top teams forced the War Eagles to learn how to deal with adversity on the hardwood.

“All of the teams were going to give us their best shot because we’re Gray Collegiate Academy,” said Gray Collegiate boys’ basketball coach Dion Bethea. “So, there’s wasn’t no easy nights. Every night was a tough night and we got the other team’s best, but we were prepared for it. We got through the Upper State last year and this year, we got through the Lower State. We’re just blessed.”

The Ridge View boys’ team is also back in the title game. Just a year ago, they won the school’s first basketball state championship riding a huge wave of momentum. This year, the team has that same momentum but a different approach to the title game.

“With the leadership that we’ve gotten from Malcolm Wilson, Wayln Napper, Javon Anderson, Crosby James, those are the four seniors that I’ve leaned on a lot heavier this year,” said Ridge View boys basketball head coach Yerrick Stoneman said. “With those four, we’ve come into every game and every practice business like because we have the target on our back.”

The Weekend of Champions starts Friday at 3:30 p.m. Click here to see the full championship schedule.

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