SILVEY: This Saturday evening, the Walhalla Razorbacks (19-7) will take on the Southside Tigers (21-2) in the AAA Upper State Championship Game for the right to go play in the State Championship game on March 3. On their road to this semifinal matchup, the Razorbacks defeated Broome (70-62), Indian Land (63-52), and Chester this past Tuesday night (74-65). Southside’s route included wins over Columbia (73-43), Pendleton (57-44), and Camden (61-35).
The Southside Tigers won the 2017 State Championship last season, beating Clinton in the semifinals 71-43, and then taking down Dillon in the finals, 65-57. They finished the season 27-1 overall.
Both teams finished the regular season undefeated in their respective league games.
Southside coach, Steve Beasley was born and raised in Pickens, SC and graduated from Pickens High School back in 1972. He worked in construction for seven years before deciding to go to college. He attended Southern Wesleyan University and graduated in 1981.
He coached basketball at Easley High School for 28 years before going to Southside (7 years JV Boys; 8 years Varsity Girls; 13 years Varsity Boys). Beasley is in his sixth year of coaching at Southside. The Tigers have a storied basketball history, having won three championships and been to five finals. The most recent one, before last season, was back in 2012 when they won it all; it was the year before Beasley was named the coach.
Last season was the first time Beasley has led a team to a state final and he has a chance to make it two years in a row if he can lead his Tigers to a victory over a hot Walhalla team.
CADE: Most people expected Southside to be back in not only the Upper State title game after last season, but many are forecasting a second consecutive State Championship. The Tigers entered the season without only one player from last year’s title team. Now, as the top team in Class AAA, Southside has their eyes set on what nearly everyone expected them to be in contention for, another Upper State Championship. While the expectation was for Southside to be at Bon Secours Wellness Arena on Saturday, nearly nobody except those close to the team, expected Coach Hal Dunlap and the Walhalla Razorbacks to be playing in this game.
Now in his 19th season at Walhalla, 32nd overall, Coach Dunlap knew that his tenure would sooner rather than later, be coming to a close. On this year’s squad, Dunlap has nine seniors suiting up in the purple and white, game in and game out. With that group of seniors, comes a hungry group that want to give back to their beloved coach, what he so rightly deserves, a phenomenal final season.
In Saturday’s showdown of AAA action, Walhalla is going to have to be firing on all cylinders. For a team that is comprised of many student-athletes that can shoot from beyond the arc, including their center, everyone needs to be on their game. All-State selections John Thorsland and Ben Wolff need to operate the transition game with for the Razorbacks along with junior point guard Chris Meadors. One senior that has had opportunities to step up for a bigger role in the earlier playoff rounds, has been Tyler Jankowy. Most every team’s game plan begins with defending Thorsland and Wolff and stopping the big man underneath, Andrew Cox. This therefore leaves Jankowy open for shots and opportunities that the opposing team is not mainly focused on. In the Razorbacks’ third round victory over Chester, Jankowy led the way with 25 points, followed by Thorsland with 18.
For Southside, everyone just needs to work together. If there is one thing that this Razorback team has proven this year, it’s that it takes a team to beat them. Point Guard Tuzion Brock, and fellow guards Jalen Calhoun and Jayden Shell, need to work well in transition. One advantage on paper that Southside has, is their size. The Tigers could wreak havoc underneath the basketball for the Razorbacks. Led by 6-8 junior R.J. Campbell, who is being recruited by Division 1 schools, and 6-10 All-State Selection Jamal Burke, the Tigers have the size advantage to control this game early. Yet, when you pair that with the Razorbacks’ athleticism and quickness, a very intriguing matchup could arise at The Well.
FINAL TAKE: Regardless of the outcome in the Upper State Championship game, you have to give credit and an applause to the Walhalla Razorbacks. A team that struggled early to find chemistry, that is now running like a well-oiled machine and playing their hearts out for the man who would lay his on the line for them. Hal Dunlap is not the type person that wants all the attention on him. Instead, he would rather everyone be spotlighting the kids and their accomplishments in both the classroom and on the court. For all of the lives that Coach Dunlap has impacted over his 32 year career, whether he wins his first ever Upper State Championship or not on Saturday, I say thank you.
Listen to a LIVE broadcast of the game on 101.7 WGOG-FM or online through TUNEIN.
View SCHSL AAA Tournament Bracket here.