Out with the old, in with the new - a new region, that is.
The Sumter High School boys and girls varsity basketball teams will hit the road today for their first games in their brand new region - IV-5A - when they take on Lugoff-Elgin with the …
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The Sumter High School boys and girls varsity basketball teams will hit the road today for their first games in their brand new region - IV-5A - when they take on Lugoff-Elgin with the girls game starting at 6 p.m.
After spending years in the Pee Dee region with West Florence and South Florence and the larger Myrtle Beach teams, Sumter is now in Spring Valley, Blythewood and Irmo as well as L-E.
SHS boys head coach Shawn Jones feels that last year's region and this year's region will pose similar challenges.
"The regions are similar competition-wise," Jones said. "Coaching-wise, it's more challenging with the legendary Tim Whipple at Irmo, (Ezekiel) Washington at Blythewood and Perry Dozier at Spring Valley; and (senior guard) Tre Jackson at Blythewood is going to Iowa State."
However, Jones thinks his team is prepared for what lies ahead.
"We're ready for the challenge," he said. "We're excited. It's not far to travel, so we hope our fans will travel with us."
The Sumter boys went 8-7 in non-region play. They played their two holiday tournaments without Boston College signee Calvin Felder, who suffered a dislocated shoulder.
"We hope to have him back on Jan. 11 (Friday)," Jones said.
Felder was averaging 13.5 points, 11 rebounds, two steals and two blocked shots per game before his injury.
On the bright side, some of Sumter's bench players have gotten more experience.
"Due to injuries, we have young guys starting who wouldn't normally start and getting a lot of minutes," Jones said. "With other guys getting playing time, hopefully that makes it easier for Calvin when he gets back."
Senior guard/wing Omar Croskey leads the Gamecocks with 18 points per game and is also averaging five rebounds and 2.5 assists. Also contributing are senior shooting guard Jalen Johnson, who is averaging nine points and three rebounds, and senior guard Cody McCoy, who averages eight points, six boards and two steals.
Jones believes L-E is a tough challenge for an opener.
"Lugoff is a good team," he said. "They play the zone well."
On the girls end, the Lady Gamecocks have started off the season with an impressive 13-1 record and look to keep the wins coming in region play.
"This region is much more competitive," Sumter girls head coach Jeff Schaffer said. "We have to execute well on offense, play well on defense and take shots from the other team."
Schaffer also knows this region is much more physical.
"The physicality of the region concerns me," he said. "The new region is a different animal."
However, Schaffer thinks his team is heading into conference play on a high note.
The Lady Gamecocks will now set their sights on Lugoff-Elgin.
"We scrimmaged them last year, but I'm a firm believer in it's about what we do," Schaffer said. "We'll be fine against whoever we play (if we believe that). We're not doing anything different."
Sumter may have just one loss in non-conference play, but it will be tougher to keep putting games in the win column with the team's upcoming schedule.
"We have to recognize the teams that we're playing are going to be better that the teams we played thus far," Schaffer said. "I'm concerned that we hit the road for the first (game) in the region. (However,) the girls are excited and ready mentally."
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