There’s something about dynasties in sports that captivate us all. No matter the opponent put before them, they always find a way to surge to the top.
Hilton Head Christian Academy’s girls lost two generational players at the end of last season, but with the outstanding growth and leadership of Dior Shelton along with an influx of young talent, Kenny Conroy and the Eagles are one win away from a remarkable third straight SCISA 2A basketball title.
Despite losing the services of electric guard Brielle McCarthy and dominant post player and rebounder Jasmine Campbell to graduation, the Eagles didn’t skip a beat in their three-peat bid. Conroy’s group put together one of the strongest seasons the Lowco has ever seen, going 23-1 and a perfect 10-0 in Region 4-2A. They went out of their way to schedule the toughest opponents possible, trying their hand against top SCISA 3A squads like First Baptist and Cardinal Newman. After that tough loss to the hands of the Cardinals, HHCA found another gear and cruised past everybody on its way to the state finals.
In fact, they’ve steamrolled every team they’ve played since then by 30 points or more, and that includes two against SCISA 2A semifinalist and last year’s 1A state champion Beaufort Academy.
What’s been the secret in the sauce for this juggernaut? It’s more than just the efforts of one player. Shelton leads the way with her phenomenal defense, rebounding, and scoring ability from all levels, but what makes this team tick is the selflessness and standout contributions of each and every girl on that roster. You can go down all the way to the bench and still find players who know what their roles are and put in the effort on every possession and every loose ball.
For starters, the guard play of Devon Yarde and Molly Smith has opened up the ability to score from outside and thrive on the fast break. Yarde’s speed and Smith’s shot combine for a lethal combination that has buried opponents in a hurry.
Skylar Smith is a winner in every sense of the word who can lock down on defense, find an open teammate, and most of all knock down the clutch shot. She became a star a year ago at Sumter Civic Center, hitting the go-ahead shot in the title game. Don’t be surprised if she comes up big in the same venue once again.
Then you have the glue girls like Abby Peduzzi and Mackenzie Buchter, players who will give you everything on every trip down the floor, delivering an important bucket or two while holding down the fort on the defensive side. It’s a unit that combines for so much more than the sum of its parts. Conroy has instilled a program with a championship culture, and everybody has bought in.
Now, they’re one victory away from truly doing something special. One final test stands in their way, as the Eagles look to take down Palmetto Christian and truly solidify this dynasty.
Last year they were tested several times in the postseason, but this year just feels different. The young freshman guards have brought that extra dimension to pick up right where last year left off, and maybe even add a bit more.
Shelton’s leadership and unselfishness extend to the entire team, and there may not be a more clutch player in the area than Skylar Smith. If each talent on the roster plays up to her potential, Saturday will be a coronation of a squad miles and miles above the competition.
By Wes Kerr