AIKEN — Aiken knows it can keep it close – it’s already done that. The trick is to win.
Tonight, the Lady Hornets basketball team meets Dutch Fork for the third time this season, but this final showdown is the most important: the teams play for the Class AAAA Lower State Championship at 7 p.m. at the Florence Civic Center.
“It’s just great,” Aiken coach Aubrey Pompey said. “The girls are really excited. It’s good to be practicing this time of the year.”
Dutch Fork is the defending state champion and has yet to lose this season, but Aiken is one of the few to make the undefeated team work. In the second meeting back on Jan. 29, Aiken lost just 51-45.
The winner will face the Wade Hampton-Dorman victor for the state title at 7 p.m. on March 1.
The Lady Hornets lost two more in a row after that, but the playoffs have been a different story. After beating Blythewood and Summerville, Aiken put up 75 against West Ashley, which was ranked No. 2 in the state, in a
Erin Gilmore had to leave the game because of an ankle injury in the third quarter, and though she wasn’t 100 percent on Thursday during practice, Gilmore thinks she’ll play; Pompey feels the same way.
But the other seniors have stepped up during the season and the run, with Rebekah Muir, Monique Tyler and Hanna Williams directing the squad.
With that group, defense has been the strength, tough it’ll have a big task against Dutch Fork’s Alaina Coates, who is 6-foot-4 and has signed with South Carolina.
Offensively, the Lady Hornets have to be careful – and patient – against an aggressive team that likes to mix up its defense, Pompey said. To help counter, Aiken will hope Gilmore can be her usual explosive, quick self.
As a senior, this is the last chance Gilmore will have to challenge for a state championship. This game is an opportunity even she didn’t expect.
“It’s big,” Gilmore said. “I never thought we’d make it this far. It’s what I always dreamed of.”