Keenan boys denied another title trip. Saluda girls advance to 2A championship game

Lou Bezjak
·3 min read

Throughout Keenan High School’s storied boys basketball history, one thing it has never done was win three state championships in a row.

Behind big nights from EJ Evett and Jared Rogers, Seneca High made sure that streak stayed intact as the Bobcats defeated the Raiders 82-75 on Saturday in the Class 3A Upper State championship game played at Dorman High School.

Seneca will play Marlboro County — 58-56 winners over Orangeburg-Wilkinson — for the 3A state championship on Thursday at 3 p.m. at USC Aiken. It’s the Bobcats’ first appearance in a state championship game.

“When you don’t execute and do the things you have been going over for a game plan, stuff happens to you,” Keenan coach Zach Norris said. “I thought they beat us in the post. Number zero (Evett) dominated the game on the inside and we didn’t have an answer for it all night long.

“I think we got bumped a little bit and some shied away from the licks. That group will be back. Maybe we will grow up a little bit and represent the city a little bit better next year.”

The question is whether Norris will be back with the group, which only has one senior on the roster. Norris’ name has been rumored for the vacant Spring Valley boys basketball job, but he declined Saturday to discuss the speculation.

The game was a rematch of last year’s Class 3A Upper State championship in which Keenan won 59-45 at Bon Secours Wellness Center in Greenville. The Raiders a year ago used stifling defense to shut down Seneca’s high-scoring attack and hold them under 30 points of their average.

This year, Keenan’s defense couldn’t slow down Evett and Rogers. Evett, a Division I football prospect, finished with 27 points that included a posterizing dunk over Keenan’s Jazian Gortman in the second half.

Rogers added 22 for the Bobcats, who withstood one of Keenan’s patent second-half runs and took over the game in the fourth quarter.

Keenan trailed 36-31 at halftime but took a 52-50 lead going into the fourth quarter as Gortman tried to will Keenan back to the state title game. The junior guard and of the top prospects in the country scored 31 of his 36 points in the second half.

But the Bobcats used a 12-4 run to begin the fourth quarter and led by as many 12 in the fourth quarter before Keenan’s late rally.

“We try to play fast all year,” Seneca coach Kevin Padgett said. “So I told them just trust what we do, let’s get out and play fast and put pressure on them. Any time we have been down, I say let’s go down and go play offense and put a lot of pressure on them to make them play defense. I think that is what we did.”

Marquece Williams added 17 points for Keenan, which finished 13-6. The Raiders’ season also featured a pair of stoppages because of COVID-19 issues.

Girls basketball: Saluda advances to state title game

Saluda 62, Blacksburg 56: Class 2A Player of the Year Kalisha Hill scored 27 points to help the Tigers win the Upper State championship Saturday in a game played at Clinton High School.

Saluda will play Silver Bluff at noon Wednesday for the 2A state championship at USC Aiken.

It is Saluda’s first state championship appearance since the 1953-54 season. The Tigers played in the Upper State championship last year before losing to Christ Church.

Saluda returned all but one of its players from last year and now is a win away from a state championship.

Mya Carroll added 10 points for Saluda. Essence Caviness led Blacksburg with 14.