The Goose Creek High School boys' basketball team is white hot entering the Class AAAA state playoffs.
Coach Brad Dobbels' squad enters the tournament with a 15-game winning streak, and the only thing more impressive than the streak is the margin of victory. The Gators have beaten opponents by an average of 27 points during their impressive run.
The Gators concluded the regular season with a 59-39 victory over Wando on Friday night as Kendrick Robinson scored 18 points, Brandon Wright 14 and Jason Brown 10. The Gators wrapped up the Region 7-AAAA title with a 10-0 record.
Goose Creek was the top-ranked team in most Class AAAA polls, and now comes the hard part. The Gators need five victories to clinch their dream season. They begin their quest at home Wednesday against Fort Dorchester.
'All these guys played last year and understand what it takes to get to the next level,' said Dobbels, whose team last year failed to win at least 20 games for the first time in six seasons, and was knocked out of the playoffs in the first round by Richland Northeast. 'We hope we can carry the success we had in the regular season into the playoffs and reach our goal of winning the state championship.'
The main reasons for the Gators' success is their balance and experience. They returned four starters and nine lettermen from last year's team. Dobbels has been able to substitute freely because of the lopsided wins, and as a result, the statistics aren't as flashy as you might expect from a team that dominates.
Robinson, a second-team All-Lowcountry selection in football, leads the way with a 16.7 scoring average and 5.3 assist per game. Wright is averaging 16.6 points and 4.8 rebounds per game, while Brown averages 11 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.6 steals per game.
The Gators, who began the season with an eight-game winning streak, are undefeated against teams from the Palmetto State. They lost a 68-65 decision to Victory Christian (North Carolina) in the championship of the Porter-Gaud Holiday Classic, and followed that up with a 79-55 loss to Bloomfield Tech (New Jersey) in the first round of the Piggly Wiggly Roundball Classic.
Since then, the Gators have been the most impressive team in the state with the 15-game winning streak. The only close calls were a five-point win against Whitefield Academy (Georgia) and a 10-point triumph over West Ashley. The Gators have beaten five teams by at least 30 points during their winning streak.
Dobbels, who owns a 212-100 career coaching record, says his team will approach the playoffs 'like it's any other time of the year.' The Gators must keep focused and that shouldn't be a problem because of the experience.
'They have answered the challenge so far and they know the deeper you go, the bigger the challenge,' the coach said. 'I give our guys credit because they've made the plays to make it a 12- or 14-point game.
'Going into the playoffs, you just try to survive and advance,' Dobbels said. 'Every day is a new day. We just have to focus on the day at hand and not look ahead. It's either get ready for practice the next day or pack it up for the season.'
The Lower State might be stronger than the Upper State, and Dobbels expects Lower Richland, Richland Northeast, Sumter and Marlboro County to provide big challenges.
The boys' Class AAAA state championship game is set for 8:30 p.m. March 3 at the Colonial Center in Columbia.
Reach Philip M. Bowman at firstname.lastname@example.org