Silver Bluff coach Sam Lilly has Brandon Wallace and his supporting cast primed for the start of the Class AA state playoffs.
The top-seeded Bulldogs (18-7, 9-1 in Region 5-AA) have won of 14 of their past 15 games and play host to Hanahan, Friday at 7 p.m. Silver Bluff is the only No. 1 seed among the four area South Carolina boys teams starting postseason action Friday.
Wallace averaged 21.5 points, 15.6 rebounds and 4.5 blocked shots during the regular season. Several other players have stepped up along the stretch for the Bulldogs.
Two sophomores - forward Bobby Davis and guard Terrance Crawford - emerged as future stars this year.
Davis (12.6 rebounds, 10.3 points) was a perfect complement to Wallace in the frontcourt.
Crawford, one of just two sophomores named to The Augusta Chronicle's South Carolina All-Area Team in football this year, has scored at least 15 points in four of his past five games, to finish with an 11.3 average.
Guards Antwon Boyd and Brandon Bussey round out a starting lineup that fluctuated until the Bulldogs found their chemistry against Richland Northeast at the Chick-fil-A Classic holiday tournament in Columbia.
"Teams have got a lot of matchup problems with this group," Lilly said. "We had to get to know each other. The team had to gel. Everybody started playing their roles, and, as long as they keep that attitude up, we'll go far."
The Bulldogs, who won nine straight before losing their only region game to Jasper County, are ranked No. 4 in the South Carolina Basketball Coaches Association's final regular-season poll. Lilly said his team has one major weakness.
"Our one Achilles' heel is free throw shooting," he said.
On the girls side, Ridge Spring Monetta (17-4, 11-1 in Region 1-A) suffered its first region loss in two years in its regular season finale at Thornwell on Friday. The top-seeded Lady Trojans will enter tonight's playoff opener, at home against Southside Christian, with a few battle scars to go along with the disappointment from last week's loss.
Leading scorer Kikki Valentine, who will play in the 2003 Carolinas All-Star Basketball Classic in Rock Hill on March 22, suffered a mild shoulder injury at Thornwell, but Trojans coach Gail Johnson said she will play tonight.
"She's going to give it 100 percent, as long as she's able," Johnson said of Valentine. "Her love of the game keeps her going."
Ridge Spring lost by one point to Louisville in the state semifinals last year.
"I've already accepted the fact we're going to take care of our job," Johnson said. "You need wake up calls. We're in this to win, and you cannot win a state championship without winning each round. We get closer and closer each year."
The only other top-seeded team from the area is the Barnwell Lady Warhorses (20-1), who play host to Hanahan at 6:30 p.m. tonight.
Reach Lane Kramer at (803) 648-1395, Ext. 106.