Originally created 03/12/98

Family affair for state's playoff teams



COLUMBIA - There are many Augusta area connections to the South Carolina prep basketball championships this weekend at Frank McGuire Arena.

South Aiken (24-5) will meet Socastee (23-9) for the boys' Class AAAA state championship at 8:30 p.m. Friday. Thoroughbreds' assistant coach Johnnie Williams is a Paine graduate and is in his second season as an assistant at the school under head coach Donnie Holland.

Williams' brother is Frank Williams, an assistant under Wrens native Tim Jordan at Savannah High School. Savannah High won the Class AAAA boys title Saturday with a 58-47 win over Berkmar.

"They (Savannah) took the (Class) AAAA title in Georgia and now we're going to get it in South Carolina," Johnnie Williams said.

Newberry (26-5) will play Fairfield Central (28-2) for the Class AAA boys title at 8:30 p.m. Saturday at the Frank McGuire Arena. The teams split their regular-season meetings, with each winning on the road. Fairfield Central has won 26 consecutive games and is trying to add a basketball state title to its football crown.

Newberry is coached by Zach Norris, an Aquinas graduate who played at USC Aiken and is the husband of North Augusta girls' coach Faye Norris.

Norris credits a 50-49 loss to Aiken in the semifinals of the Twin State Holiday Invitational Tournament at Aiken High in December as being a key to his team's season. In his third season at the school, Norris also has coached at Williston-Elko, Saluda and Glenn Hills.

"It was a tough loss with me being from the (Augusta/Aiken) area," Norris said. "After that game, the kids told me they were not going to let me down anymore."

Norris led Williston-Elko to the 1995 Class A boys state title game, which it lost to Terrells Bay and coach Taft Watson. The Terrells Bay coach led the girls' and boys' team to state titles. Terrells Bay rallied from an 18-point deficit to beat Williston-Elko. The next season, after Norris had left, Williston-Elko captured the 1996 Class A state title.

"I learned a lot that day from one of the greatest coaches in the state," said Norris of Watson, the winningest girls' and boys' coach in South Carolina prep history. "I asked him what did he tell his team during that timeout when they were down by 18 points and he said they just said the Lord's Prayer. He told them that if they kept running up and down the court with us, they were going to lose. They came back and won the game. The thing I learn is that you have to be consistent in the things that you do."

Eau Claire (23-4) can thank area squads Butler and Hephzibah for helping it reach the Class AAA girls' title game. The Shamrocks will battle Battery Creek (25-1) for the stat title on Saturday at 7 p.m.

Butler defeated Eau Claire in the girls' championship game of the Twin State Holiday Invitational Tournament in December. Second-year Shamrock coach Tammy Jones said playing Butler and seeing Hephzibah in the tourney was a big help for her team.

"Georgia has some great teams," Jones said. "Those teams had a lot of height, aggressiveness and speed and that was a great help to us to see teams like that."

Estill (25-6) will attempt to win its second consecutive Class A girls' title against Indian Land (24-2) at noon Saturday. Estill defeated Wagener-Salley in the Lower State semifinals on its way to the state championship game after losing both meetings during the regular season.

Even Wild Gators' coach Cecil Jenkins said his team might not have made it to Columbia if Wagener-Salley had not lost guard Nicole Harrison. The War Eagles' guard was expelled from school for an unspecified reason and missed the team's playoff run. She helped Wagener-Salley win both games during the regular season.

Harrison was a North-South selection but will now be replaced in the March 28 All-Star game at the Winthrop Coliseum in Rock Hill.

"It was real big," Jenkins said of the win over Wagener-Salley. "Wagener-Salley lost one of its best players. They easily could have been here. It was the first time we had lost a region game in six or seven years."

Playoff slate

BOYS

CLASS AAAA

Saturday

Upper State semifinals:

North Augusta 49, Irmo 43

South Aiken 78, Lexington 52

Upper State Finals

Tuesday:

South Aiken 67, North Augusta 56

State Finals:

Columbia, Friday, 8:30 p.m.

Lower State semifinals:

Lower Richland 69, Hartsville 43

Socastee 59, Richland Northeast 37

CLASS AAAA

Lower State finals:

Socastee vs. Lower Richland at Wilson High, Florence, S.C.

State Finals

Columbia, Friday, 8:30 p.m.

South Aiken vs. Socastee-Lower Richland winner

CLASS AAA

Tuesday

Upper State Final:

Newberry 64, Greenville 63 OT

Lower State Finals:

Fairfield Central vs. James Island

Class AA

Tuesday

Upper State Finals:

Palmetto vs. Bishopville

Lower State Finals:

Wade Hampton vs. Hemingway

CLASS A

Tuesday

Upper State Finals:

Christ Church vs. Great Falls

Lower State Finals:

Estill vs. Scott's Branch

GIRLS

CLASS AAAA

Saturday

Upper State Semifinals:

Orangeburg-Wilkinson 60, Lexington 29

Laurens 78, Rock Hill 40

Tuesday

Upper State finals:

Laurens 79, Orangeburg-Wilk. 56

Lower State Semifinals:

Summerville 36, Socastee 32

South Florence 68, Hartsville 56

CLASS AAA

Monday

Upper State Finals:

Berea at Eau Claire

Lower State Finals:

Manning at Battery Creek

Class AA

Tuesday

Upper State Finals:

Columbia 57, West Oak 48

Lower State Finals:

Wade Hampton vs. Mullins

CLASS A

Tuesday

Upper State Finals:

Ware Shoals vs. Indian Land

Lower State Finals:

Estill vs. Green Sea-Floyds