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Gray Collegiate High School

By Chris Dearing

Special Contributor

Columbia - Gray Collegiate coach Dion Bethea coach Dion Bethea walked off the court last week at the Bon Secours Arena in Greenville with one thought on his mind.

The War Eagles will be looking to three-repeat as Class AA boys basketball state champions this weekend against Whale Branch and that fact isn’t lost on Bethea.

“We haven’t done it yet but if we’re able to accomplish that, it will be something special,” Bethea said. “When people looked at what we lost off of last seasons team, they didn’t think we would be playing this deep into the season. That’s a testament to the work ethic and demeanor of this team. I hope we can send these guys off the right way.”

Much has been made of what isn’t on this War Eagles team this season. The big three of Tommy Bruner, Khalil Robinson and Jalil Robinson all moved on to the college ranks. Ty Rivers also graduated, and Trevor DeLoach transferred out of state.

But that didn’t stop Bethea from reloading.

Taurus Watson, a senior transfer from White Knoll, is leading the team by averaging 17.6 point per game. He’s also ran things from the point guard position and averaging four rebounds, two assists and 2.4 steals per game.

Senior Latavian Lawrence, also in his first season in the program, is next best at 12.2 points and a team-best 5.2 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.

Junior Chase McDuffie has seen his numbers steadily increase during the season and he’s now averaging 8.8 points per game to go along with 3.6 rebounds and 1.4 steals. Senior wing Zaire Rogers chipping in 6.3 points and 3.6 rebounds per game. Senior Chris Rhone is at 5.2 points per game with fellow senior RJ Howell adding 5.1 points and 4.4 rebounds. Howell routinely draws the best scoring option on the opposing team.

The next group of contributors are young for the most part but is gaining more confidence as the season has progressed.

Freshman 6-6 guard Brandon Gardner is averaging 4.9 points per game and is a big part of the regular rotation. Sophomore Tory Kelly is chipping in with 4.5 points per game. Junior Tim Barnes is at 3.9 points per game but had double figures in the semifinal win over Andrew Jackson.

Freshman Montaivis White (3.3 ppg), Sophomore Kris Wallace (2.4 ppg), and senior Raevon Allen (2.4 ppg) also will see time.

Bethea still looks back at the win over Ridge View, a two-time defending Class AAAA champion that is also looking for a third straight title, in late January as the turning point to the season. The War Eagles (24-6) have won 14 in a row heading into the finals. The win over the Blazers was the second in that winning streak.

“We have a number of guys that are capable of being the leading scorer for us,” Bethea said. “We’re 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 hope we have one more great game in us.”



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