Hill, Saluda too much for Silver Bluff in title game

·4 min read


The final result couldn't dampen Chasen Redd's excitement following Wednesday's Class AA girls' basketball state championship at the USC Aiken Convocation Center.

He knew his seventh-ranked Silver Bluff Lady Bulldogs were upset and disappointed by their 61-41 loss to third-ranked Saluda, but he told them to keep their heads up and stay calm — as difficult as that may be.

There was no second-guessing, no regrets, no reason to be upset with his players in the program's first state title game appearance. Their strategy for containing Class AA Player of the Year Kalisha Hill simply didn't work — no matter how they defended her. She had 34 points and 20 rebounds and took over the game once it looked like Silver Bluff was finding some momentum.

"I'm excited we got here. Nobody can say we're not one of the best teams in Class AA girls," Redd said. "I think we proved that by making it to the state championship. They had us eighth in the rankings all year, and we finished No. 2. I've got to give all the credit to Saluda, Coach (Jeanette) Wilder, Kalisha Hill. Great player, great team. We look forward to being back."

The Lady Bulldogs (11-2) quickly dug themselves in a deep hole, giving up a 14-0 run to start the game. Region 5-AA Player of the Year Kalyn Glover's bucket with 2:20 left in the first quarter was Silver Bluff's first of the game, and the Lady Bulldogs trailed 17-6 after the first 8 minutes.

Consecutive 3-pointers by Saluda's Tiara Daniels forced Silver Bluff to switch up its defense. The plan was, knowing Saluda wasn't a great jump shooting team, to settle into a zone and double-team Hill to try to make her uncomfortable. That had to be adjusted once those 3s dropped, and Hill took advantage.

Saluda's (15-0) lead grew back to 14 following a 7-0 run midway through the second quarter, and then Silver Bluff was able to do the things that led to so much success this season.

The Lady Bulldogs forced turnovers, grabbed rebounds, scored at the other end and got to the free throw line — by doing so, they cut their deficit to 30-24 at the half.

"We dug that hole. Second quarter, we had a surge. We battled back," Redd said. " ... We made some adjustments. We tried to limit (Hill) over and over. She's talented. I'm gonna say it again. Credit goes to Saluda. We tried to adjust and move around and double. We did everything we could do to get her out of her moment, but she was still able to do her job."

Hill took over in the third quarter, scoring Saluda's first 13 points as the Tigers pushed their lead back to 12 heading into the fourth.

"She's a good player. I said it coming in. She's a heck of a player. I give her all the credit," said Redd. "We tried to do everything we could to mix it up and throw different looks at her, and she still was able get buckets on us. We tried."

Making climbing back from that deficit more difficult was the fact that Glover was stuck on the bench after picking up her fourth foul with 5:22 left in the third quarter. Saluda went on an 11-5 run after she sat for a 45-33 lead.

The Lady Bulldogs got to within seven points in the fourth quarter, but the Tigers pulled away down the stretch to earn their first-ever state championship.

Aaliyah Lawrence had 14 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks, and Glover had 10 points. Silver Bluff shot just 23.6 percent from the floor and forced 20 turnovers, but also gave the ball away 17 times and was out-rebounded by 11.

The loss was Silver Bluff's first since early December, and the Lady Bulldogs were dominant on their way to a Region 5-AA title. Their first two playoff victories were also blowouts despite a 19-day wait after their regular season ended, and then they contained Philip Simmons' two All-State guards to win the Lower State championship for the first time in history.

Glover's the only senior on a young roster, leaving Redd just as optimistic as he was last year when he said this group was capable of a deep run.

"I definitely think we'll be back," he said. "... I know they're upset, but they made it all the way to the state championship. I'm proud of them. I'm not upset with them. We could've done a lot of things better, but this is the last game. They did what they had to do. They gave me their all, and that's all I can ask for as a coach."