‘We don’t take anything for granted’: Jaguars boys, girls, region champs, seek state crowns
They never get tired of the titles.
Ridgeland-Hardeeville High School boys and girls basketball coaches Jeremiah Faber and Frederick Toomer have built successful programs that each season contend for state championships. The goal is always to get to Columbia and win a state crown, but along the path to state success is region glory, which Faber and Toomer have grown accustomed to.
Last Thursday the Jaguars’ boys defeated visiting Bluffton 64-59 to secure the Region 8-AAA championship and secure a top seed in the Class AAA state playoffs. A week earlier Toomer’s girls beat host Wade Hampton 48-23 to wrap up their region title.
The boys have won five straight region crowns and the girls have won four in a row. Ho-hum? Not quite.
“We don’t take anything for granted,” Faber said. “We welcome that blessing.”
RHHS (20-1, 7-1 Region 8-AAA), which began the week ranked No. 2 in the state Class AAA coaches poll and was set to host Lake Marion in a first-round state playoff game Tuesday, won the Region 6-AA title in 2014, the Region 5-AA title in 2015 and 2016 and won Region 8-AAA last season.
Since the 2014 season, the Jaguars have a 45-5 region record.
Before Thursday’s win against Bluffton, Faber stressed to his team the importance of winning another region title. A win ensured home-court advantage for the first two rounds of the playoffs and solidified an undefeated season at home.
RHHS led 44-42 after three quarters and pulled away with a 16-7 run early in the fourth. Rashamel Butler started the fourth with a basket and after Bluffton cut the lead to 46-45, Diamonte Robinson (12 points) scored on a jump stop that gave RHHS a 50-45 lead. A minute later Devin Butler hit a 3-pointer and Dequandre Hamilton (layup) and Da’Monta Pusha (3-pointer) extended to an 11-point lead.
“I told the kids two of our primary goals were up for grabs: finish undefeated at home and win the region,” Faber said. “Those two things were on the line and we met those goals.”
Rashamel Butler scored 18 points and Devin Butler added 15 points for the Jaguars who were 8-0 at home in the regular season.
Robinson, a senior, has been on the varsity for three seasons. He helped the Jaguars rally from a 10-0 first-quarter deficit by scoring seven first-quarter points. He said winning another region crown was important.
“I’m so excited right now, we won region again,” Robinson said.
Sustaining a legacy
Toomer, who coached Ridgeland High’s girls to a 2011 Class A state championship, said winning region titles helps validate the program. Players come through the system and graduate, but the next group is expected to be ready to perform and recently his program has maintained its excellence.
“I want the girls to realize it’s part of a legacy,” said Toomer, whose 2012 team was 14-0 in Region 5-A, part of a two-year 27-1 region record from 2011-12. “We are part of a tradition. Winning one, sometimes two, is all that some people get. For us to win four in a row, that means those seniors were part of all of those.”
RHHS’s girls are 35-2 combined in the region during the last four seasons.
“It lets us know we are still on the right track,” Toomer said. “Girls will come and graduate and more girls will come and graduate. We are following the trail set by the earlier teams.”
Before the Jaguars played a first-round state playoff game Monday against Hanahan (a 69-33 win), they closed the regular season by rallying last Thursday to a 47-44 win over Bluffton.
Que Drayton scored 22 points, including the tying layup and go-ahead free throw with 19 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter to clinch the win. RHHS trailed by 11 in the third and by eight with six minutes to go in the fourth.
With 19 seconds to go Drayton grabbed an offensive rebound and was fouled on the putback to tie it 44-44. Her free throw gave RHHS the lead, 45-44. On Bluffton’s next possession, Marlaysia Westbrook blocked a shot in the lane.
Drayton made two free throws with five seconds to go and a Bluffton deep 3-point attempt missed at the buzzer.
Toomer said Drayton’s performance proves why she’s one of the state’s best.
“She’s not a afraid to seize the moment and do what’s expected of her,” he said.
Faber and Toomer each hope to make a run at a state crown, but its always sweet to be able to see the Ridgeland-Hardeeville name atop the region standings year after year after year.
“We expect to win the region, that’s second nature to us,” Faber said. “Any time you can win a region championship with the competitive teams in our region it’s always great, it’s a blessing.”
Class AAA state playoffs
RHHS began the SCHSL Class AAA state playoffs Monday with girls action and continued Tuesday with a boys contest. For coverage, visit jaspersuntimes.com.
Monday: Girls host Hanahan in first round.
Tuesday: Boys host Lake Marion in first round.
Thursday: Girls host Strom Thurmond.
Friday: Boys (if win Tuesday) host TBD.
Feb. 19: Lower State semifinal (girls home)
Feb. 20: Lower State semifinal (boys, TBD)
Feb. 24: Lower State final (boys, girls) Florence
March 3: State final (boys, girls) Columbia