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South Aiken High graduates to perform with their college bands during NCAA tournament in Ohio

Apr. 4—The 2024 NCAA Women's Final Four in Cleveland, Ohio, begins Friday, April 5, with a basketball game between N.C. State and USC Columbia, followed by a matchup between the University of Connecticut and University of Iowa.

These semi-final games will determine who will compete for the title of NCAA National Champion at the championship game on Sunday, April 7. Both of Friday's games will be broadcast on ESPN.

Several college students who graduated from Aiken schools will be performing with their respective university bands during the Final Four. One of these is Emma Davisson, a 2021 South Aiken High graduate who is now a junior at USC Columbia in the Basketball Band.

This is Davisson's second time being selected to perform during the Final Four, and she talked about what the experience is like. "Final Four is honestly one of the best trips because it kind of feels like you're wrapped up in everything going on and it's great to be able to be this close to the team and see what goes on with them," she said. "I'm grateful for the opportunity."

Davisson talked about her time playing the clarinet while she was growing up. "My mom made me do it!" she laughed. "Then I actually just loved doing it... once I got into college that was something I was involved with... I felt like I needed something from high school to hold on to."

South Aiken graduate Malachi Smalls is a drum set player, also for the USC Columbia Basketball Band, and is performing during Final Four. "It feels amazing to play at The Final Four," he said. "I've been wanting to do this for a while and it's a dream come true to play and watch."

This is Smalls's first season in Basketball Band, after transferring from Georgia Southern University in the Fall. He said the experience has been both "fun" and "challenging."

Smalls noted that his time at South Aiken has helped prepare him for this opportunity: "I learned a lot at south Aiken, most importantly most of my rudiments and other styles of drumming as well."

Zachary Patterson also graduated from South Aiken High School and is now in the band at N.C. State. A college freshman, Patterson says he has "loved every second" of his time at the school. He also spoke about his enthusiasm for being able to play during the Final Four.

"I'm so excited about this," he said. "I mean, really, it's kind of a dream come true that we've made it this far, especially since both our men's and women's team have made it to [the] Final Four in the NCAA. So I'm just really excited."