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Burke aims for another state title in basketball

December 15, 2016

Two years ago, the Burke High boys’ basketball team won the Class A state championship, the first in 30 years for a program that is among the most successful in the Lowcountry.

The Bulldogs’ effort to defend their title fell short last season, a second-round loss in the Lower State playoffs ending Burke’s season at 14-9. Coach Deon Richardson’s team had to play last season without all-state guard Adonicas Sanders, who transferred to Fort Dorchester after the championship run.

Richardson says there was a definite period of adjustment without Sanders, and that last year’s disappointing finish has fueled the fire for this season. Burke, now in Class AA, is ranked sixth in the statewide AA rankings released by the S.C. Basketball Coaches Association.

“Losing Adonicas forced us to change some things and players had to adapt to new roles,” Richardson said. “It took us a while to make those adjustments. But I think we’re in a much better situation this season.”

Richardson has a mixture of experienced veteran players, several of whom played on the state championship team two years ago, along with some newcomers. Building early season chemistry is job one. Burke has opened the season with a 3-2 record, both losses coming by three points to area AAAAA power West Ashley.

“I think we have showed some positive signs early on but we’re still a work in progress,” said Richardson, who has a 52-27 record in his fourth season at Burke. “For us, we’re still trying to build the chemistry and get everyone on the same page. We have some veteran guys but we also have some young guys and we need to get everyone playing together. I am very confident we will get that done.”

The unquestioned leaders of this year’s team are senior guards Isaiah Holloway and Sidney Robinson. Robinson is a fourth-year starter and handles the point. He averaged 17 points per game a season ago and 13 points per game as a sophomore.

Holloway is a capable scorer, averaging 13.8 points per game last season. In Tuesday night’s 63-60 loss to West Ashley, Holloway poured in 33 points.

“They are the guys we look to for leadership, no doubt about it,” Richardson said. “They have played a lot of basketball together and they are a great team on the floor. We feel it’s a tremendous advantage to have them on our team. They understand the game and they understand how we want to play as a team.”

This year’s team has depth as well. Senior forward Anthony Hill is averaging 12.5 points and 8.3 boards per game early on. Sophomore wing Marquez Watson, a transfer from Fort Dorchester, is averaging 13.8 points this season, while senior Algernand Young adds 11 points and five rebounds per game.

“We aren’t very consistent offensively right now but I think that part of the game will come around because we have good talent,” Richardson said. “Until that happens, we have to dig in defensively. We have to become a consistent defensive team. Everyone can hustle and everyone can give great effort defensively. The scoring will come and go but the defense has to be there for us every night.”

As for contending for the state title this season, Richardson says his team should be among the favorites.

“Class AA is tough but we are approaching things as if we are state contenders,” the coach said. “I think we have the talent to compete for a state title. We certainly have to work at it. Everyday has to be about effort, in practice and in every game.”

Lowcountry Top 10

Boys Basketball

1. Porter-Gaud

2. West Ashley

3. James Island

4. Goose Creek

5. Northwood Academy

6. Burke

7. Berkeley

8. Fort Dorchester

9. Wando

10. Bishop England

Lowcountry Top 10

Girls Basketball

1. Goose Creek

2. Northwood Academy

3. Bishop England

4. Wando

5. Ashley Ridge

6. Burke

7. Berkeley

8. Academic Magnet

9. First Baptist

10. Cross