It's down to two.
Roughly three months since the season opened with promise for many area boys and girls high school basketball teams, two girls teams -- the Ridgeland Jaguars and the Thomas Heyward Academy Rebels -- remain alive in the playoffs, and both play tonight.
Ridgeland, the defending Class 1-A state champion and the coaches' No. 1-ranked team in the preseason poll, has lived up to its billing.
The Jaguars (21-4) host Timmonsville at 7 tonight in the Class 1-A playoffs. Ridgeland advanced after a 59-45 win over Latta on Thursday night that was so heated and physical, the coaches agreed the players shouldn't shake hands after the game.
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Late in the contest, Ridgeland's Tiara Nelson was ejected from the contest. Under S.C. High School League rules, an ejected player is suspended from the next contest.
Jaguars coach Frederick Toomer said after the game he planned to appeal the suspension for Nelson, who averages 7.1 points and 16 rebounds, since she was walking away from any altercation. The SCHSL agreed, voiding her 1-game suspension.
"She's going to play," Toomer said Sunday. "They overturned it."
The Jaguars will need Nelson's rebounding against Timmonsville (20-4). The Whirlwinds feature 5-foot-10 Sade' Eli, who averages 22.8 points, 12 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 3.5 steals and 1.5 blocks. Eli has pulled down 21 rebounds in two of her past three games, and in a 57-37 first-round playoff win over Johnsonville, she scored 21, grabbed 21 rebounds and dished out 10 assists.
The Jaguars should be familiar with the Whirlwinds, though. Ridgeland beat Timmonsville 35-33 in last season's playoffs to reach the state championship game.
Thomas Heyward (24-0) faces Calhoun Academy at 6:30 tonight at the Sumter Civic Center.
The Rebels advanced with Friday's 44-16 smothering of The Byrnes School, also at a neutral site at Porter-Gaud in Charleston. Thomas Heyward doesn't have any issues with playing away from home.
"It doesn't matter where you play," Rebels senior forward Andrea Daring said Thursday after practice. "You've got to have the same mind-set every game and play your game."
The Rebels' defensive performance against The Byrnes School negated the fact Thomas Heyward was playing without arguably its best player, SCISAA Region 1-AA Player of the Year Brielle Jungblut, who is recovering from an illness.
According to Rebels coach Gary Mazzanna, Thomas Heyward will likely have to win without the junior guard (11.4 points, 7.3 steals) again.
"No, she's doubtful," Mazzanna said. "We might get a minute out of her. She's probably not going to play."
The Cavaliers (13-8) are led by senior center Ashley Spiers, averaging 10.5 points and 11.3 rebounds, and senior forward Morgan Fanning (6.5 ppg, 4.1 rpg).
BA'S PRESTON SUBER, THA'S TUTEN ALL-REGION
Beaufort Academy's Preston Suber and Thomas Heyward Academy's J.D. Tuten were named to the SCISAA Region 1-AA All-Region Team.