No one can agree on exactly when Laurence Manning Academy and Clarendon Hall's varsity boys basketball teams last played each other, but one thing we know for certain: it's been a very long time.
That's set to change on Saturday, however, when …
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That's set to change on Saturday, however, when Clarendon Hall -- the reigning SCISA 1A state champion -- hosts the Swampcats, one of SCISA 3A's top teams.
The two schools, separated by just 13 miles, often face each other in scrimmages during the summer, but this will be the first time they've battled when it counts since at least 1995.
The game is part of the Saints Showcase presented by PrepHoops. The first game will have North Charleston, which is coached by former Sumter High School player Chris Brown, taking on Trinity-Byrnes beginning at 5:30 p.m. LMA and Clarendon Hall will play at approximately 7.
East Clarendon's girls were originally scheduled to take on Hartsville in the showcase, but that game has been cancelled.
LMA enters the contest 11-4, fresh off a 70-32 victory over Northside Christian on Wednesday. The Swampcats are led by junior Umar Lawson, a versatile wing capable of putting up points in a hurry.
"Umar is a dynamic guy," said Laurence Manning Academy head coach Will Epps. "He's athletic, he can get to the rim, and he's shooting the 3(-point shot) really well this year. He's one of the better players in the state of Carolina."
Lawson has averaged nearly 20 points per game this season, while freshman Brandon King and senior Chase Lee post around 13 points each.
The Swampcats have a big weekend ahead of them. They'll face Trinity-Byrnes on Friday in their Region III opener and then turn around and face the Saints on Saturday. Trinity-Byrnes won the region last year and have already beaten the Swampcats once this season.
"They're really good," said Epps. "They have a lot of really good players. It's going to be a dogfight, and it's going to be a tough region this year."
The one big advantage LMA has over Clarendon Hall is in bench depth. The Swampcats are a deep team, which allows them to play aggressive, full-court defense. Meanwhile, the Saints have rolled out an entirely new bench this year.
"We're not as deep as I'd like us to be," said Clarendon Hall head coach Anthony Ritenour. "Fouls are not our friend right now. We've always been an up-tempo and high-paced team, and we're kinda having to temper ourselves a little bit which is a little bit more of a challenge."
The Saints are led by senior point guard Zyan Gilmore. Gilmore scored 41 points in the Saints' victory over Trinity-Byrnes earlier this season, notching 27 points in the second half.
Gilmore was also the star quarterback for the Clarendon Hall football team, but missed the last couple of games due to a severe concussion. He's healthy now and shining for the Saints yet again.
"Zyan Gilmore has been Zyan Gilmore, the same one he's been for the past few years," said Ritenour. "He's just a phenomenal point guard."
The Saints finished 29-0 last year and are off to a 4-3 start. That's not a concern for Ritenour, however, given the strength of their early season schedule.
"We're playing tougher teams, and we've had some big wins", said Ritenour. "We've played some really tough competition, so I'm good with it. We're still strong, and we've got a lot of guys that are working hard. Some of our kids have grown tremendously both physically and mentally, and we're playing good basketball. I like how we're doing. We just have to stay healthy and stay out of foul trouble."
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