FLORENCE, S.C. — Dutch Fork is one step from perfection.
The Silver Foxes earned a return trip to the Class AAAA girls basketball state championship game with a 40-24 victory against Aiken on Friday night at the Florence Civic Center.
Dutch Fork will try to win back-to-back titles next Friday night at Colonial Life Arena against Dorman and cap the school’s first unbeaten season. It was the 39th consecutive win, dating to last season, for the Silver Foxes.
“We’ve really worked to get back to where we were,” Dutch Fork coach Faye Norris said. “We haven’t completed it yet. We made a lot of mistakes but I told them to forget about the mistakes and let’s move forward. It feels great to get back where we were last year.”
McDonald’s All-American Alaina Coates finished with 20 points, 13 rebounds and six blocks and altered many other shots in helping hold the Hornets to their lowest scoring output of the season. She was 8 for 13 from the field and 4 of 5 from the free throw line.
The Silver Foxes have made at least the state semifinals in Coates’ final four years on the varsity. She is looking forward to trying to help this team finish an unbeaten season.
“It means a lot,” said the senior who has signed with South Carolina. “It’s important because no girls’ teams has ever done that and we want to be the first.”
Norris said this week was a tough one for her. Dutch Fork (28-0) had defeated Aiken (19-8) twice this season by 15 and six points, respectively, but it was the fact that she was playing her alma mater that rattled her most. Norris was a member of the only girls state championship team in Aiken history in 1975, and being the team that eliminated them this season was a different feeling.
“I will tell you that got to me a little bit this week,” Norris said. “It’s tough when you have to go back and face your alma mater like that. I tried to not let my team see that emotion.”