When I interviewed Greenwood High School girls basketball coach Susan Thompson and guard Tianna Swearinger for our girls basketball season preview at the end of November, Thompson didn't mince any words when she told me what the Eagles were expecting this season.
"We're saying we're going all the way to state," she told me. "That's our dream and that's what we think."
It was a brazen statement, especially given the fact the team would go on to have its confidence severely damaged by losing five games in a row during December.
The wounded Eagles could have gone in the tank after a 40-39 region loss to T.L. Hanna, but that wasn't the way to achieve the state championship dreams with which they began the season.
Since then, Greenwood has won 13 in a row, regaining its swagger and riding a wave of momentum all the way to the state finals.
Waiting for them there is a Dutch Fork team that took a remarkably similar path the the title game. The Silver Foxes lost the majority of last year's 29-0 team, and struggled to a 5-6 start to the season.
Much like the Eagles, Dutch Fork was able to turn the tide and embark on a spirited run to close the season, advancing all the way to Colonial Life Arena to meet up with Greenwood tonight.
The two teams are near-mirror images of each other. One will walk out of Columbia with a championship tonight.
Greenwood comes in fresh off an emotional victory against Dorman, finally overcoming the Cavaliers in the Upper State finals after they knocked Greenwood from the playoffs each of the last two seasons.
Off such an impassioned performance against Dorman, it's easy to wonder if the Eagles are in for an emotional letdown the next time they step on the floor.
I wouldn't bet on it.
Even last Friday night, not even 30 minutes after clinching a 74-65 victory to win Upper State, Swearinger and fellow guard Yanna Jones told me while the win felt great, their job wasn't finished and their focus was already shifting towards the finals. Jones and Christina Westervelt reaffirmed that to me Monday morning at the championship press conference in Columbia.


Though they're still riding high off that victory, make no mistake: all week in practice, the Eagles — though loose — were all business.
They'll need to be to take down Dutch Fork, because the Silver Foxes are one of the few teams that boast a trio of scorers that can match Greenwood's trio of Jones (16.2 points per game), Swearinger (15.7) and forward Tembre Moates (15).
Forward Morgan Williams (14 points), Zhane Green (12) and all-state point guard Sydney Shull (10) are all capable of piling up points. Williams, in particular, is noteworthy, because she averages eight rebounds per contest and will go against a thin front line of the Eagles.
That matchup not withstanding, I'm willing to take Greenwood's tandem of Swearinger and Jones against just about anybody in the state. They're determined to bring home a title, and, through all ups and downs of the season, are within 32 minutes of that goal they set back in the postseason of bringing home a crown.
Prediction: Greenwood 66, Dutch Fork 59
Anders is a sports writer at the Index-Journal. Contact him at 943-2530, email janders@indexjournal.com or follow him on Twitter @IJJORDANANDERS. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper's opinion.