The Bishop England girls’ basketball team has been South Carolina’s premier program since the 2011-12 season. The Battling Bishops have won six state titles in the last nine years, compiling a 224-19 record during the stretch.
However, the Bishops’ bid for another state title took a big hit in the 2020-21 season opener when Adry Simmons suffered a season-ending knee injury against Palmetto Christian Academy.
“She’s 6-foot-1, and now we don’t have the depth or size we were counting on,” said Bishop England coach Paul Runey, who is in his 37th year as coach of the Battling Bishops. “When last season ended, we were going to return five of our top six players from last year’s team. The only player who graduated was Emma Albano. Going into the season, I felt confident we would be a pretty good team. But one injury can change things just like that.”
Don’t worry, the Bishops will still be a force in Region 8-AAA and around the state despite the injury. How deep the Bishops go this season depends on how well they hit their inside shots.
That’s been an issue already this season. The Bishops lost to Cardinal Newman in the championship game of the Bishops’ preseason tournament.
“Our defense will have to be our offense because of our inside game and lack of consistency from the outside,” Runey said. “We lost to Cardinal Newman because we missed so many inside shots. It wasn’t funny. We probably missed 15 inside shots and yet we were tied with three minutes left in the game.”
Jaiha Williams and Lily Woods will be the Bishops’ 1-2 punch this season. Both have proven track records as they begin their senior seasons.
Williams was the region player of the year and earned all-state recognition after helping the Bishops reach the state quarterfinals last season. Woods excels in basketball and tennis and is a winner. She has won seven individual and team state championships in tennis and basketball and goes for No. 8 this winter.
Runey had high praise for both players.
“Jaiha has been a starter since her freshman year,” Runey said. “She’s a great kid and a team leader. I don’t think she’s reached her potential as a basketball player. There’s still a lot of basketball in her.”
Runey said Woods is a fierce competitor.
“She never wants to come out of the game,” Runey said of Woods. “She plays at 100 miles per hour.”
The other three starters are juniors: Ally Dominiak, Ella Schar and Princess Scott.
“We have some very good high school players,” Runey said. “They work hard and want to learn and get better.”
The Bishops have ruled their region for almost a decade. But this season, there is a legitimate threat to the Bishops’ supremacy. North Charleston is a region newcomer after winning the Class AA state title last winter. Battery Creek, Hanahan, Academic Magnet and Oceanside Collegiate are the other teams in the realigned region.