What the boys and girls have in common is a pair of second-year head coaches, Eddie Romines and John Gardner. Romines aims to keep his team in the upper echelon of Region 3-3A, and Gardner continues a rebuilding process.
Last year the boys swept all 10 region contests, won 14 straight games and advanced all the way to the Upstate finals, finishing 21-4. The girls were 6-15, 2-8 in region play, a year after going 2-20, 1-9, in 2015-16.
“We have some talent,” Romines said, “but we also have only four players on our roster who played at the varsity level last year. It’s going to take us a while to come together as a team.”
Romines’ team lost heavily to graduation after falling to Southside in the Upstate finals. The top holdover is senior Zay Hurley, who was named by the state’s coaches as one of Class 3A’s five best players. The South Carolina Basketball Coaches Association placed Hurley in its Top Five along with Swansea’s Effix Miller, Fairfield Central’s Mon Quayveous McBride, Bluffton’s Jermaine Patterson and Brookland-Cayce’s Dominique Perry.
Hurley averaged 12 points and seven rebounds, led by a 26-point, 16-rebound performance against Newberry. He will have more of a load on his shoulders as he attempts to fill the void left by graduated all-state selection Jalen Carter.
It’s a balanced roster, composed of seven seniors (Hurley, Vilo Boyd, Jahleed Cook, Ty Priestley, Zay Bennett, Zech James and Mark Wise), seven juniors (J.D. Payne, Ahmari Bates, Titus Hood, Qua Quarles, P.J. Bluford, Skyeland Holsonback and Sam Tiller) and sophomore Konnor Richardson.
The Red Devils lost only to Laurens, Aiken, Newberry and, in the Upstate finals, Southside. The Newberry loss was in a non-region contest. Clinton swept the games against the Bulldogs that counted. The playoff run consisted of victories over Indian Land, Pendleton and Berea leading up to the 71-43 loss to Southside at Bon Secours Wellness Arena.
Four seniors (Ashlyn Abercrombie, Sara Olivia Stephens, Dianna Martin and Mohagony Simpkins), five juniors (Savanna Campbell, Shy Haskell, Keyoni Reed, Aaliyah Johnston and Latoria Johnson), sophomore Terriauna Bennett, freshman De’Shanti Watts and eighth grader Kailey Cheeks make up the girls’ roster.
“We are a very young team that’s learning and getting better day by day,” Gardner said. “We have four seniors who are good leaders and the rest range from (grades) 8-11. We are learning how to be consistent day to day in practice and games.
“Being in a tough region, I think Newberry is obviously the team to beat. After that, there are a lot of dangerous and improving teams. Every night will be a challenge. I am excited about our young talent both on varsity and JV.”
Both teams open on Monday, though in separate tournaments. Romines’ team will face Eastside at 7:30 p.m. in the Greenville Tip-Off Tournament that runs through Wednesday, while Gardner’s girls will play in a tournament hosted by Woodruff High School on Monday and Tuesday.
Both host High Point Academy on Wednesday, Nov. 29, and visit Laurens on Friday, Dec. 1.