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Gray Collegiate High School

By Chris Dearing

Special Contributor

Columbia - It’s rare that a two-time defending state champion needs a boost of confidence. But going into a showdown with another two-time state champion Ridge View this past week at the annual MLK Bash, that’s exactly where Gray Collegiate found itself.

The War Eagles had 10 days to think about its most recent outing, a surprising 88-81 loss to Columbia High. They used the time off wisely and responded with one of its most complete games of the season in the 62-59 win over the Blazers.

“From a confidence standpoint, it is very important,” Gray Collegiate coach Dion Bethea said. “Ridge View is coming off back-to-back state championships. And for us to go toe-to-toe with them, the rest of the season, we’ve got to make sure we play at that high level.”

That was a much better feeling for Bethea, who was celebrating his wedding anniversary that day. He said after the Columbia loss, his wife was none too pleased.

“My wife isn’t used to me coming home a loser,” Bethea joked. “I had a long time to think about that one. I like the way we came out and played with better effort.”

 Tauris Watson scored 16 of his 22 points in the second half to key the win. Zaire Rogers added 12 points and Latavian Lawrence had a huge tip-in off a missed free throw late for the three-point margin of victory.

“Ridge View has a great team and we have a great team,” Bethea said. “We just had to execute on the mistakes they made. And guys stepped up (and) made big plays.”

Bethea feels like that’s the way it will be for the remainder of the season. Gray Collegiate has the rematch with Columbia on January 29 and play only region games the rest of the way with the exception of a match-up with Ridgeland-Hardeeville.

The War Eagles are poised for another championship run. They have a 12-6 record with the Columbia loss the only one being to an in-state school.

Watson, a senior transfer from White Knoll, is averaging 18.3 points per game. Lawrence is next best at 12.3 points and a team-best 5.5 rebounds per game. After those two comes a handful of players that could be the leader on any given night but have been mostly solid all season.

Chase McDuffie is next at 6.9 points per game with Rogers chipping in 6.6 points per game. Chris Rhone is at 5.8 points per game while RJ Howell (5.8 ppg) freshman Brandon Gardner (5.4 ppg) round out the regular rotation.

Kris Wallace, Raevon Allen, Montaivis White, Tory Kelly, and Timothy Barnes also contribute valuable minutes.

“We have a number of guys that are capable of being the leading scorer for us,” Bethea said. “We’re finally understanding how to play together and that has helped us tremendously. I think the Ridge View win will help us get locked in for the remainder of the regular season and the playoffs. We’re excited for what is ahead of us.”

On the girls side of things, six of the nine players on the roster are freshmen and they continue to play valuable minutes. Aaliyah Lawrence is averaging a double-double with 14.3 points and 11.3 rebounds per contest. Fellow freshmen Adrian Frye is next at 6.0 points per game with Cymoria Thomas (4.8 ppg) and Zaniyah Huggins (3.5 ppg) also contributing. Freshman Iyanna Elliott is at 2.7 ppg. Saniyah Boland is the other freshman on the squad.

Senior Truth Doctor has been limited due to injuries but has chipped 4.8 points per game as well. The other two players to see action include seniors Chrissy Evans and Charlotte Tetter.

The War Eagles are just 3-13 but have been more competitive once region play has begun.  



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