Ridge View boys roll past James Island and into 4A state championship game

The Ridge View boys basketball team began the season No. 1 in the rankings. Now they have a chance to finish the year in the top spot.

Senior Jayden Pretty scored 31 points and the Blazers moved on to the Class 4A state championship game with a 60-38 win over James Island on Wednesday night at the Florence Center.

“Enjoy it,” Ridge View coach Joshua Staley said to his team in the locker room after the game. “What you did is nothing short of amazing. But we aren’t finished yet.”

Ridge View will play Riverside at 8 p.m. Saturday at Florence Center in the final contest of the 10-game championship weekend.

It’s the Blazers’ seventh state title game appearance and sixth since 2018. But it’s the first trip under Staley, who took over for Yerrick Stoneman and is in his second year leading the program.

Ridge View is the third different school Staley has taken to the state championship. He took the Orangeburg-Wilkinson girls team there three times and A.C. Flora boys twice, winning it all in 2016.

The Blazers took their lumps in their first year under Staley, going 15-13 and losing in the second round of the playoffs to Wilson. The Blazers beat the Tigers this year to advance to the semifinals.

“I wouldn’t say we were all the way in last year,” Pretty said. “The trust wasn’t there. We had to learn to really believe in our coach.”

Ridge View returned most of its roster, including Pretty, and was ranked No. 1 in the S.C. Basketball Coaches Association’s Class 4A preseason poll. The Blazers started the year 16-0 and won the prestigious Chick-fil-A Classic tournament with wins over nationally ranked John Marshall (Va.) and Grayson (Ga.).

Ridge View moved into the national rankings for a few weeks before losing to rival Westwood and then to A.C. Flora in the regular season finale to finish second in Region 5-4A.

The loss to the Falcons was a wakeup call for the Blazers and for Pretty, who Staley called out for his effort and lack of leadership as one of the team’s seniors.

“When A.C. Flora beat us, he changed his mindset,” Staley said of Pretty. “He knew one of the reasons we took those two losses was because of his mindset. He changed his mindset, has been very mature in practice, and it has been good for the team.”

Pretty said the loss to A.C. Flora reminded him of the playoff loss to Wilson last season. It sparked an energy inside of him to want to go harder, he said.

“We haven’t had a leader this year, so I feel like I need to step up and help my team,” Pretty said.

Pretty had 14 in the semifinal win over Wilson last week and turned in arguably his best performance of the season against James Island, which rallied to beat Westwood to advance to the semifinals.

Pretty had 15 of his points in the first half for the Blazers, who led 16-5 after the first quarter. James Island cut the deficit to 24-18 before Malachi Cooper’s basket right before halftime.

Ridge View ended any type of James Island comeback attempt with a strong third quarter and led 47-29.

RV: Jayden Pretty 31, Corbett 6, Davis 8, Mack 2, Cooper 5, J. Smith 1, Staley 4, T. Smith 2, Vankallen 1 JI: Jenkins 6, RJ Simmons 12, Linhart 6, Ward 8, Scott 4, Renault 2