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GREAT FALLS There is no question that coach Smith will emerge victorious in the Class A boys Upper State championship basketball game Saturday in Greenville.
But which one?
Having head coaches named “Smith” is not the only similarity that Great Falls and Landrum, who will battle Saturday in Greenville’s Bi-Lo Center for a shot at going to state, share.
Both teams come into the contest with records of 25-1.
Each team went unbeaten against A competition this season (Landrum’s lone loss was to Class AAAA foe Fort Mill, while Great Falls only lost to Class AAA power Fairfield Central of Winnsboro), each claimed a region title and each had at least one player on the Class A all-state team.
Great Falls High coach John Smith, a Lancaster native and former LHS basketball star, said that Landrum’s Lyn Smith has an excellent team.
“I think 25-1 says it,” Smith said. “They are a big physical team. They aren’t flashy but they don’t make mistakes and don’t beat themselves.”
Smith said he was very impressed with Landrum center Alex Wilson.
The all-state basketball pick has averaged more than 20 points a game this season. Smith said Wilson is more than just a big body, though.
“He’s a fine post player,” Smith said. “This is going to be the first time this year we’ve really seen a big-scoring big man. And the thing about him is he can step out and shoot it. He hit three threes against Chesterfield.”
Smith also had praise for Landrum’s point guard, Deshaun Hall, and Jacob Hatchette, a good perimeter shooter. Those three have helped make the Cardinals a potent offense.
“They average 79 points a game,” Smith said. “They control the boards, then they just get out and go.”
For Great Falls, the playoffs have been all about defense.
Blackville-Hilda managed just 35 points against the Red Devils. Greenville Tech Charter was able to muster only 31 and Hunter-Kinard-Tyler, a region champion, scored only 42 in falling to the Red Devils in the Class A Upstate semifinals.
The numbers are even better than they appear, since Greenville Tech Charter and Hunter-Kinard-Tyler each scored some late points in garbage time when Great Falls had the game well in hand. GFHS’s Smith said his team has done a good job contesting not only every shot and pass, but every dribble.
“I couldn’t be happier with our defense,” Smith said.
In Tuesday’s third-round game, Great Falls was solid, with blocks and steals, to not only deny Hunter-Kinard-Tyler points, but also shot attempts.
Smith said one area where his team needs to improve is on offense.
“We’re lacking some flow offensively,” Smith said. “Everybody’s tried to take it one-on-one instead of running the offense.”
Torrey Craig has led the team in scoring in each of its three Class A Upper State playoff games with showings of 14, 22 and 28 points.
Smith said Craig’s ability to score inside and out makes him difficult to defend, but noted his perimeter shooting has opened things up for everybody else.
Tip-off is set for 12:45 Saturday at the Bi-Lo Center.
The contest marks the 19th time Smith has guided a team to an Upper State championship game.
He sports a 15-3 record in his previous Upstate title appearances at GFHS.