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HS Basketball Postseason Review Part One

With last weekend’s state championships, the 2023-2024 high school hoops season has come and gone. From tip off in down to the final whistle in Florence, it was a season that was loaded with talented players making a name for themselves that is worth reflecting on. So in this epilogue to the season, Joe and Jordan are gonna look back at the year for each team they saw and highlight some of the key performers from each one. 


Let’s start with the biggest story of the season – the James F. Byrnes Rebels. Obviously, when you think of 5A boys basketball over the last decade or so, the one team that comes to mind is the Dorman Cavaliers – and with good reason. Dorman won 5 of the last 7 state title games they have appeared in. Even when they were still in 4A, they were among the elite programs in the state. Dorman has also won their region every year since 2016. 


So, that begs the question.. When was the last time Dorman didn’t win the region? The 2015-2016 season where they came in 4th. The region champion? Byrnes, who also went on to win the 4A state championship. Prior to this season, the Rebels had not made it out of the 2nd round of the playoffs since that run, and they had the core of talent this season to finally break that streak. 


The Rebels did have a historic season behind the leadership of Senior Captains Will Fowler and Kayzzin McDowell. Fowler emerged as one of the best players in the state on a team that was by and large the best in the upstate and among the best in the state as a whole on any level. Will led the team in scoring all season long, averaging 18.6 points per game and shooting 54%. He also shot 44 percent from three point range, which was also top of the team. All of those numbers earned him region 2-5A player of the year, and SCBCA 5A All-state selection.


 Kayzzin McDowell averaged just over 12 points per game and led the team in rebounds, averaging 5.8 per game along with 181 rebounds (an average of nearly 6 per game through 31 played). 


Perhaps the biggest storyline of the season was the emergence of freshman Colt Fowler – who if you were not aware, is the younger brother of Will and son of Coach Layne Fowler. Colt only led the team in 2 categories, but one of them made him a key catalyst for why this team was so dangerous on the offensive side of the ball. He led the team in free throw percentage, shooting 72% from the stripe, which was just enough to edge his brother in that category (71%). But, his biggest impact came in the assists column. Colt averaged 4.8 assists per game, having played in all 31. 


The Rebels lost just 5 games on the season, all coming in non-region play against Riverside, who got them twice, Greer, and Central Bucks West (W. Va). After their last regular season loss, which was back in December, Byrnes rattled off 15 straight wins, running the table to the region 2-5A title and the 5A Upperstate championship, ultimately leading to a showdown in Florence last week against a loaded Lexington team. Aside from Will Fowler’s team-leading 26 points, they simply could not get anyone else going and shot 18-59 from the field, resulting in the season ending with a 67-48 loss. But, make no mistake, this won’t be a season forgotten about any time soon for this Byrnes program. 


The Dorman Cavaliers entered the season with a nice experienced core returning in Christian Andrews, Christian Gentry, Cason Gilliam, and Keenan Arcega-Whiteside. But, if you asked Thomas Ryan prior to the season, his honest answer for you was that he had no idea how good his team would actually be even with what they had back. From the gate, things looked good for the Cavs, going 10-0 to start the season before dropping a contest to Grayson (Ga). They ended their non-region schedule at 14-3 and then started their 2-5A slate with a scare at Boiling Springs where they had to pull a late rally to win 60-58. They had one other ‘struggle win’ that gave some validation to Coach Ryan’s preseason concerns when it took overtime for them to beat Spartanburg in the first round of the City Rivalry this season. 


In region, they went 5-3, having been swept by Byrnes and splitting with a resurgent Gaffney team that was a pleasant surprise this season. That was enough to get them the 2 seed in the playoffs, where they defeated White Knoll and Blythewood before bowing out to Mauldin in a hard-fought upperstate quarterfinal. Honestly, if that is a season with uncertainties or a “down year”, most would take it. 


Boiling Springs’ season did not at all go the way Craig Martin would have hoped for his 2nd year at the helm of the program. The Bulldogs lost a huge piece from a year ago with the graduation of Tre Locklear. This season, they would have to lean heavily on their senior leader Landon Sprouse, who rose to the occasion nicely, emerging as one of the top scorers in the area. 


Sprouse led the team with an average of 18 points per game in 22 games played this year. He was also one of the top rebounders, which was enough to garner him all-region honors. Sophomore Forward Isaiah Atkins and Guard Jeremiah Favorite also were key contributors this season. Ultimately, that was the tale of the tape for this team. They had several close games and a few where they failed to play a full 32 minutes and let leads get away. They had some nice pieces, and those pieces will make for a good core to build on for next season, but this team was very young with 6 sophomores and 5 juniors. 


Ultimately, the Bulldogs struggled their way to a 7-15 overall record and did not notch 1 win in 8 region games, missing out on the postseason. 


The Chesnee Eagles were one of the 3 programs in our local area to be under new leadership this year, with former Boiling Springs standout player and assistant coach Zach Baldinelli taking the reins. Baldinelli had quite the stable of talent to work with in his first season, but don’t let that diminish what he managed to accomplish in a year. He had the duo of Brady and Coyie Poole – 2 brothers with a knack for scoring the basketball, but also getting overlooked for how well they defend. Along with Brady Poole, the Eagles also had three other key seniors on the roster this season in Guard/Forward Kaylob Blanton, Guard Noah Mvula, and Forward/Guard Daniel Wease. 


Brady Poole led the team in scoring, averaging nearly 20 points per game and was third on the team in blocks with 8. His brother Coyie averaged nearly 14 points/game. Sophomore Forward Eli Brown led the team in fieldgoal percentage, shooting 55 percent from the floor with an average just shy of 10.5 points per game, and was the 2nd leading rebounder with an average of 6.4. 


The Eagles finished the season a game over .500 at 14-13, a far cry from 8-18 a year ago. Chesnee made the playoffs, but had the misfortune of facing the eventual 2A state champion Gray Collegiate in the first round, falling on the road 91-39. 


Landrum, like Dorman, is a team that you expect to have a big season. While they have not won the state titles that the Cavaliers have, the Cardinals are a program that has consistently won or at least been in the mix for the region championship and at least makes it as far as the 2nd round of the playoffs. This season was no exception. 


Coach Lyn Smith’s team was led by a trio of key players – most notably senior Shooting Guard Franklin Davis – who was the leading scorer with 538 points (an average of 18.6 per game), and also had a team-high 34 blocks. Junior Shooting Guard Bennet Edwards led the team in fieldgoal percentage, shooting 54% over the course of 29 games, as well as rebounds (203 – 7 per game avg) and assists (117 – avg 4 per game). Sophomore Point Guard Aj Lindsey led the team in just 1 category – steals (65, avg 2.2/game), but was still a key contributor with 65 assists and 119 rebounds. 


Ultimately, the Cardinals had a shot to lock up their 4th consecutive outright region title, but ran into a red-hot Greer Middle College team that beat them in the regular season finale, leading to the 2 sharing the crown. They would play again in a neutral site tie breaker at Chesnee 2 days later with the same end result. GMC held Franklin Davis to just 10 points in 2 games, which meant it was in the hands of AJ Lindsey to try and at least lock up the 1 seed outright. He scored in the 20s, but that was far from enough as GMC swept the week. 


Even as the 2 seed, Landrum lived up to their usual trends, making a run to the 2nd round. They beat Mid Carolina at home to open the playoffs, but would see the season end in a close 49-44 overtime loss to Fox Creek. The Cardinals finished the season 22-7 overall and lost just 2 region games – the last 2 to GMC. They also went a perfect 13-0 at home this season.

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