High School Sports

Rivalries heat up Friday night high school hoops

South Pointe at Lancaster: Probably the marquee matchup of an interesting and rivalry-filled Friday night of high school hoops, the Lancaster girls host South Pointe. Ronnie Robinson’s Lancaster team is ranked No.1 in the state in 3A for the first time in school history, while South Pointe is ranked No. 4. Stephanie Butler’s South Pointe program has improved steadily in her two years on the job and this year’s club is playing fast, with no recognizable stars.

“We had some team goals coming in,” said Butler on Thursday afternoon before her team practiced against South Pointe’s ninth grade boys team. “Had no idea a ranking would come. but it’s been pretty nice to have that recognition.”

The Stallions (13-2, 3-0 in Region 3-3A) pummeled Clinton 82-6 on Tuesday, their third straight region blowout win. South Pointe’s non-region schedule was challenging and should have it ready for its biggest game of the season thus far. Butler’s crew loss to 4A power Dutch Fork by 10 and Academy of the Holy Cross (Md.), but beat Page (N.C.), Northwestern, and Rock Hill and Fort Mill (twice each).

Lancaster (16-0, 4-0) hasn’t struggled in region play either, its closest win a 15-point victory over Chester last week. In non-region action, Lancaster beat 4A teams Spartanburg, York, Greenwood and Nation Ford, and the Bruins have won the last five games against South Pointe.

Count on a fast game; both teams only have a couple players combined taller than 6-foot and are guard-dominated, though South Pointe’s standout freshman Kelly Foster will miss the game because of flu. True to its pace of play, Lancaster averages 17 steals per game.

“Our defense is going to be key. We’ve got to stop them,” said Robinson, whose team’s scoring is led by Malia Rivers’ 15 points per. “We’ve got to make sure we’re containing them and keeping them out of transition as much as possible. We will be defensive-minded throughout the game.”

For a school that hasn’t even existed 10 years yet, South Pointe’s rivalry with Lancaster is firming up in the two schools’ first year together in the 3A ranks.

“They gave us probably our toughest game in the region last year,” said Robinson. “It’s great for both schools and both communities to have two top-five teams playing against each other.”

Rock Hill at Northwestern: A truer rivalry than South Pointe-Lancaster, Rock Hill and Northwestern’s first of two meetings this season is highlighted by a girls’ game featuring two teams 6-0 in Region 3-4A play.

Rock Hill (13-5, 6-0 Region 3-4A) and Northwestern (8-10, 6-0) are already two games ahead of third-placed Gaffney in the Region 3-4A girls’ basketball standings, and a win Friday night would put the victor in pole position to win the region.

“Who can impose their will on the other and sustain that for 32 minutes,” Rock Hill coach Kenny Orr queried in an email. “Northwestern has been the gold standard for years. We hope we can come in and compete with them and give the community something they can be proud of.”

Both teams feature balanced scoring attacks. Rock Hill’s top scorer, junior point guard Madison Hendrix, only averages 10.2 points per game, while Northwestern’s Alexis Loney is the Trojans’ top scorer at about nine points per game. Northwestern coach John Bramlett has relied on a pair of freshmen – Destyne Garmon and Makenna Thompson – in the backcourt to try and replace graduated standouts Ieshia Love and Aubriana Thompson; how they play against the Bearcats’ older guards might determine the outcome of the game.

Great Falls at Lewisville: Both of these schools’ boys teams were ranked in the top-five in the state in 1A, until Lewisville lost to C.A. Johnson, which dropped it out of the poll altogether. Great Falls is still ranked, checking in at No. 5 this week.

Ranked or no, Lewisville has successfully bounced back from last season’s struggles when the team finished 4-20 in part because of a youthful roster that was cleared out by graduation after the Lions’ state championship in 2013. Those kids are a year older, and taller, and first-year coach Michael McCray has them believing again.

Great Falls is led by standout point guard Nigel Simpson, one of the best in the area, but the Red Devils lack height this season, something Lewisville has in abundance. The Lions have four players on their roster 6-foot-3 or taller; any one of the four would be Great Falls’ tallest player.

The last four state champions in 1A boys’ basketball have come from Region 3-A, with Great Falls winning back-to-back titles in 2011 and 2012, Lewisville in 2013 and C.A. Johnson last year. Friday’s rivalry tilt might give an indication if that streak has a chance of continuing.

Nation Ford at Fort Mill: The Nation Ford-Fort Mill boys’ game should be the kind of toss-up scrap that typifies the parity in Region 3-4A this season. Nation Ford comes into the game on the back of a 29-point loss to Gaffney, which snapped a six-game winning streak, while Fort Mill had its own six-game winning run halted by Northwestern on Tuesday.

The Yellow Jackets (12-5, 4-2 Region 3-4A) and Falcons (11-6, 3-2) are second and third in region standings. Fort Mill has won nine of the 14 all-time boys’ basketball games between the schools, though Nation Ford won both contests last season.