COLUMBIA -- Socastee coach Dan D'Antoni said his team never gets any respect in South Carolina.
D'Antoni doesn't like being labeled "Cinderella" as Socastee (23-9) takes on South Aiken (24-5) for the boys' Class AAAA state title tonight at 8:30 at the Frank McGuire Arena.
That game will be preceded by the Class AAAA girls' game at 7 p.m. which pits Summerville (25-2) against Laurens (28-0). The Upper State champion is the home team tonight, while Saturday, the Lower State teams will be the home team.
"We never get any respect because of where we are in relation to the rest of the state," D'Antoni said. "But we play in a good region, and we have a good team."
Ironically, it was D'Antoni who has invited South Aiken to the Beach Ball Classic in Myrtle Beach the past two seasons, including this year. D'Antoni said his team should've been ranked in the final South Carolina Class AAAA state poll. His team has defeated defending Class AAAA state champion North Charleston, USA TODAY No. 23 Lower Richland and Richland Northeast in reaching the state title game. Those three teams and South Aiken were the top four in the final poll.
Region 5-AAAA, which includes Socastee, has its own region tournament. It's the only Class AAAA region to do so. Socastee, which finished third behind Hartsville and West Florence during the regular season, won the tournament, which was played at Socastee.
"I think we would have won the tournament anyway," D'Antoni said. "We put all the teams up in hotels and we fed them. We've beaten North Charleston at North Charleston and we beat Lower Richland and Richland Northeast in the playoffs. We're no Cinderella. We have a good team."
D'Antoni also takes offense over the controversy involving his team's 65-63 overtime upset win over North Charleston in the Lower State quarterfinals. The defending state champions had to play the entire fourth quarter and overtime without South Carolina signee Damien Kinloch. Clemson signee Dustin Braddock fouled out in the fourth quarter as North Charleston lost its first game to a South Carolina school since December 1996.
Reportedly, Kinloch and Socastee's star Courtland Freeman, a 6-foot-8 junior, got in a fight, which led to Kinloch's ejection."They ejected the right people," D'Antoni said. "It was No. 20 (Derrick Robinson) and not No. 21 (Freeman) who got into a fight with him (Kinloch)."This was the first year that South Carolina played the Upper State and Lower State championship games at neutral sites.
"South Carolina is one of the few states that still have playoff games at home," D'Antoni said. "It's been proven that home-court advantage is one of the biggest advantages that teams have in the playoffs."
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