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The Item's Wednesday Watch 2.19.20

The Item’s Wednesday Watch is a weekly look at the buzz around tri-county sports. The Item sports staff will pick its most noteworthy stories, stats and quotes for the week. 1. SCHSL …

Lakewood's Quentin Hodges, left, and the Gators open the 4A playoffs with a trip to Daniel on Wednesday.

Gators have long trip to face Daniel in playoff opener

The Lakewood High School varsity boys basketball team had a fascinating regular season. With so little varsity experience coming in, most people didn't know what to make of the Gators. That lack of experience led to a bumpy start, and if you just …

Sumter's Leslie Owens and the Gamecocks open the 5A playoffs with a rematch against Ashley Ridge on Wednesday.

Gamecocks carry stifling defense into playoff opening-rematch with Ashley Ridge

The Sumter High School varsity boys basketball team was a bit of an unknown commodity entering into this season. The Gamecocks had a new head coach and a young team. They used the first few weeks of the season to find their identity and they found …

East Clarendon's Talaysia Cooper recorded a quadruple-double in the Lady Wolverines' 55-36 win over Barnwell on Tuesday.

Cooper nets quadruple-double as EC rolls past Barnwell

TURBEVILLE -- Whenever Talaysia Cooper takes the floor for East Clarendon High School’s varsity girls basketball team, people expect to see spectacular things. The Lady Wolverines' super …

Lee Central's Keionyah Dennis (12) led the Lady Stallions with 14 points in their 42-22 win over Fox Creek on Tuesday.

Lady Stallions whip Fox Creek; get defending champ Christ Church next

BISHOPVILLE - It's reasonable that the Lady Stallions of Lee Central High School had an eye on a possible second-round matchup in the 2A state playoffs. They just had to get past first-round …

From the Wire

Ryan Newman was released from the hospital on Wednesday following his crash in the Daytona 500.

Ryan Newman released from hospital after Daytona 500 crash

CHARLOTTE - Ryan Newman was released from a Florida hospital on Wednesday, two days after his frightening crash on the final lap of the Daytona 500. Roush Fenway Racing released a photo of Newman leaving a Daytona Beach hospital holding the hands …

Former Crestwood High School standout and Memphis guard Ja Morant holds his daughter, Kaari Jaidyn Morant, before the start of a game last week. The Grizzlies are playing above preseason expectations.

Surprise! Raptors, Heat, Grizzlies, all Thunder in good places

The oddsmakers in Las Vegas usually know what they're talking about. But even they get things wrong from time to time, and this season in the NBA there have been a few notable misses from all those preseason prognostications - specifically, ones …

Atlanta Braves Chairman Terry McGuirk, center, and members of the Atlanta Braves baseball team honor baseball Hall of Famer Hank Aaron, third from right, front, with a street named after him outside CoolToday Park, the spring training baseball facility of the Braves, in North Port, Florida, on Tuesday.

Aaron on hand as 'World Series or nothing' Braves ramp up

NORTH PORT, Fla. (AP) - Nothing like a little encouragement from Hammerin' Hank himself to show the way at spring training for the Atlanta Braves. The Braves welcomed Hall of Fame slugger Hank Aaron to their first full-squad workout and named a …

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) passes against the Carolina Panthers during the first half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019.

Saints' Brees plans to return for 2020 season

NEW ORLEANS - Quarterback Drew Brees' record-setting NFL career is on track for a 20th season - and a 15th with the New Orleans Saints. The 41-year-old Brees announced his intention to return for what would be his 20th NFL season in a social …

The gallery follows Mickey Wright's iron shot from the fairway at the Toronto Golf Club, 1967.  The game will be broadcast on "Shell's Wonderful World of Golf" in early February on NBC.

Mickey Wright leaves a legacy of big wins and beautiful swing

The swing was so fundamentally sound that it got the attention of anyone who knew and cared about golf, even those considered to be among the greatest to ever play. The appeal was so strong that it carried an entire tour, even as the attention …

Prep Sports

Lady Monarchs overcome slow start to roll past Loris 64-30

MANNING -- It took a while for the Manning High School varsity girls basketball team to shove it into overdrive in Monday's 3A state playoffs first-round game against Loris, but once it did there was no looking back.

LOCAL SCHSL PLAYOFF SCHEDULE

Local SCHSL playoff schedule

Wilson Hall, LMA in region tournament at Sumter County Civic Center on Monday and Tuesday

The boys and girls varsity basketball teams from Wilson Hall and the boys team from Laurence Manning Academy will be playing in the semifinals of the SCISA Region III-3A tournament today at Sumter County Civic Center.

Wilson Hall downs Lady Swampcats 59-56, LMA boys cruise to 59-35 victory

MANNING -- Wilson Hall's varsity girls basketball team got all it could handle and then some from SCISA Region III-3A rival Laurence Manning Academy before holding on for a 59-56 nailbiter Tuesday at Bubba Davis Gymnasium.

Big second halves lift Sumter teams to easy wins over Spring Valley

The Lady Gamecocks turned a 6-point halftime lead into a 66-38 victory, while the SHS boys led 22-19 at halftime before winning 57-39.

CLEMSON

USC, Clemson open with wins

COLUMBIA - South Carolina scored six runs in the bottom of the first inning and opened its baseball season with a 10-0 victory over Holy Cross on Friday at Founders Park. Bryant Bowen hit a 3-run home run in the first inning to make it 3-0. …

Clemson's Al-Amir Dawes. left, shoots over Pittsburgh's Gerald Drumgoole Jr. during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020, in Pittsburgh. Clemson won 72-52. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

Clemson snaps 3-game skid with 72-52 win over erratic Pitt

PITTSBURGH - Clemson coach Brad Brownell figured his team was due. And in a way, Pittsburgh coach Jeff Capel felt the same. They were both right. And the muddled middle of the wide-open Atlantic Coast Conference remains as murky as …

Clemson quarterback Trevor Laurence and the Tigers' focus this offseason is to get in position to return to the national championship game for a third straight season.

Swinney: Clemson focused on getting back to title game

CLEMSON - Clemson coach Dabo Swinney first task after the Tigers' national title loss was crystal clear: Make sure his players weren't crushed by the defeat. After all, a good chunk of Clemson's roster - including quarterback Trevor Lawrence - …

Clemson co-offensive ordinator Tony Elliott speaks during media day for NCAA College Football Playoff national championship game Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020, in New Orleans. Clemson is scheduled to play LSU on Monday.

Elliott to make $1.6 million as Tigers offensive coordinator

CLEMSON - Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott has received a raise and will earn $1.6 million a year after the school approved a new contract for several Tigers assistants. With the raise, Elliott is now tied with Alabama's Steve Sarkisian …

Clemson forward Aamir Simms (25) blocks a shot by Virginia forward Mamadi Diakite (25) during the Tigers' 51-44 loss on Wednesday in Charlottesville, Virginia.

UVA outlasts Clemson with Key's 3s

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. - Braxton Key always does plenty of the little things for Virginia - like setting screens, rebounding and playing stout defense - that help the Cavaliers have success. He did the big things, too, Wednesday night, hitting two …

USC

South Carolina guard Destanni Henderson (3) attempts a pass in traffic during the Gamecocks' 95-44 win over Vanderbilt on Monday in Columbia.

No. 1 USC pounds Vandy 95-44 for 19th straight victory

COLUMBIA - No. 1 South Carolina is closing in on restoring its championship past. Gamecocks coach Dawn Staley wants her players focused on what's next this week, not what's looming next month. South Carolina took another step in that direction …

South Carolina guard AJ Lawson (0) and the Gamecocks' recent surge might give them a chance to make the NCAA Tournament.

SEC stacked with NCAA Tournament bubble teams

The SEC has three teams that should be locks for the NCAA Tournament. The rest of the conference may have some work to do. No. 11 Auburn (22-3) climbed as high as No. 5 in The AP Top 25 and was among the top 16 seeds in the NCAA's preliminary …

Connecticut's Christyn Williams, left, and the Huskies dropped out of the top five in The Associated Press Top 25 polls for the first time since 2007.

UConn's top five streak ends in AP women's basketball poll

NEW YORK - UConn's record streak of top five appearances in The Associated Press women's basketball poll is over. The Huskies fell to sixth on Monday, ending a run of 253 consecutive weeks as one of the first five teams in the Top 25. That …

South Carolina guard Zia Cooke (1) celebrates a three-point basket against Auburn during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020, in Columbia, S.C.

Boston, Cooke lead top-ranked USC to 79-53 win over Auburn

COLUMBIA - South Carolina coach Dawn Staley anticipated a bit of a letdown after topping UConn earlier this week. She also expected her players to quickly get past it and perform like they have all season. "It's tough to come back from an …

South Carolina guard Jermaine Couisnard (5) dives for the ball during the Gamecocks' 75-59 win over Georgia on Wednesday in Athens, Georgia.

SEC's bubble teams need to start making better impression

Here are a few things to watch in Southeastern Conference basketball this week: GAME OF THE WEEKEND Mississippi State (15-9, 6-5 SEC) at Arkansas (16-8, 4-7): This game features two bubble teams that desperately need a win to boost their NCAA …

Outdoors

PHOTO PROVIDED  Michael M. DeWitt Jr. wrote a Valentine's Day ode to his favorite fish.

My Valentines: Fish I have known and loved

My love affair with fish began when that first little bluegill flashed her dark eyes at me on the banks of Granddad's pond, and I have been an avid fisherman ever since. It is perhaps my only fault as a man. It has not been an easy relationship. …

BOYLES

Outdoor Briefs: Quail seminar set, SCDNR director named

DNR will host quail seminar in March South Carolina Department of Natural Resources is proud to host the 31st-annual Wild Quail Management Seminar at Webb Wildlife Center in Hampton County on March 12-13. This seminar is designed for land …

DAN GEDDINGS / THE SUMTER ITEM  Relics from two different worlds are found on a recent visit to the Lowcountry.

Two worlds revealed

In the palm of my hand was the evidence of two worlds. I had scanned the ground carefully while walking the road in one direction, then I turned and walked back. The direction of the sunlight will sometimes make all the difference, and it did …

Extras
Columbia's Pridgeon continues his professional win streak

Sitting backwards on a chair, one arm stretched out in front of him, Jaylon Pridgeon watches his trainer wind gauze around his hand. Next comes the tape, between the fingers and then around the wrist …