It came without much pomp, circumstance – or even games played.
The Philip Simmons girls’ basketball team entered this week’s play with at least a share of the Region 6-AA championship, while the Bishop England boys and girls both own at least a share in Region 8-AAA play.
Championships might seem to fly under the radar during the 2020-21 basketball season because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused the high school season schedule to be shortened, re-shuffled and reimagined numerous times. This season, it’s not so much, “Who won?” The question is “Who played?”
The Iron Horses entered this week with only five games under their belt this winter while both Bishop teams have played nine.
In Region 6-AA, only two region games were played this season heading into this week, and both involved the Iron Horses. They beat Burke and Woodland. They were scheduled to play Lake Marion Tuesday night and close out the regular season at Timberland
on Friday night.
Timberland and Ridgeland-Hardeeville have yet to play a region game, according to MaxPreps. Lake Marion has played only one game all season, a loss to Cross back in December.
The record might not be gaudy, but PSHS girls’ coach Dustin Williams is happy with his program’s progress in only its fourth season as a varsity team.
“It’s still an honor,” Williams said. “Like I said, we just have to take it day-by-day. We have been fortunate enough to stay healthy. There’s a pandemic, but we have been able to keep grinding. In our fourth year, this is where we want to be.”
The High School League has cut this season’s basketball playoff field to 16, down from 32 in typical years. Most of the regions around the state will have its champ qualify for the playoffs while holding a separate tourney to decide the second team. The playoffs begin Feb. 20 and culminate with the Weekend of Champions, slated for March 3-4 at the Colonial Life Arena in Columbia.
A victory Tuesday over Lake Marion would guarantee the Iron Horse girls a home game in the first two rounds of the playoffs if they stay the course.
The Iron Horse boys began the week in second place in the region with a 2-1 record. Woodland, which has played only two games all season, leads with a 1-0 region record, a 75-74 victory over the Iron Horses.
Meanwhile, the Bishop England girls and boys are close to adding hardware to the trophy case heading into this week’s action Region 8-AAA action.
Both teams are 8-1 overall, and 4-0 in league play with a game scheduled Tuesday, when the Bishops host North Charleston.
The Bishop boys made headlines around the state last winter with their 20-0 record to begin the season and all that accompanied that amazing streak. This winter, coach Kevin Grevey’s team has the potential to make a deep run, albeit a little more quietly than last winter because of the stop-again, start-again schedule.
But in a season that has produced just about everything, there is one thing on most people’s minds.
“I tell the girls to stay safe,” Williams said. “We have been fortunate to remain healthy. We have to take precautions. We can’t be that team that gets into the playoffs and then has to forfeit because of the pandemic.”