Spartanburg, S.C. – For the second straight year, former USC Upstate standout and Spartanburg High School graduate Luke Payne has helped lead the Lakeside Lightning into the Grand Final of the State Basketball League (SBL) playoffs in Australia, sweeping the Perth Redbacks in the semifinal series.
Lakeside won the Grand Final last year, taking home the league championship by defeating Perry Lakes by a score of 85-77. Payne was named the Most Valuable Player of the Grand Final after leading the team in scoring throughout the playoffs. The Lightning will make another appearance in the Grand Final and looks to secure back-to-back championships and their fourth SBL title since 2005 when the Lakeside battles the Willeton Tigers on Aug. 21.
Payne helped lead Lakeside to the best record in the regular season, 21-5, and the No. 1 seed in the SBL playoffs. He ranked second on the team and fourth in the league with 22.8 points per game during the regular season. He is averaging 25.8 points, 3.3 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 2.3 steals per game in the playoffs. Lakeside has swept both of its opponents in the best 2-of-3 playoff format in the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds. He averaged 23.5 points, four rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.5 steals per game in leading the Lightning to a sweep of East Perth in the quarterfinals, then averaged 28 points, 2.5 rebounds, 5.5 assists and two steals per game in the sweep of Perth in the semifinals.
While the SBL incorporates a best-of-three playoff structure in the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds, the SBL championship consists of one game, the Grand Final. Lakeside was 1-1 against Willeton during the regular season. The Tigers claimed a low-scoring, 69-62, outcome in the first matchup between the two teams early in the season. Payne scored just 10 points in that contest. However, Payne dropped 39 against Willeton in leading the Lightning to a 104-93 victory in the second meeting late in the year.
Payne was a four-year standout playing for his dad, Eddie Payne, at Upstate from 2004-08 and was named the male Student-Athlete of the Year as a senior. He averaged 11.6 points for his career and finished his four years ranked ninth all-time in scoring with 1,381 points. As a senior, he averaged 14.9 points in leading Upstate in its first year playing on the NCAA Division I level and in the A-Sun in 2007-08. He was named to the all-tournament teams at the BP Top of the World Classic in Fairbanks, Alaska, and the State Farm Sun Bowl Tournament in El Paso, Texas. He became the first Upstate basketball player to earn weekly honors from the A-Sun, earning player of the week honors following Upstate's win at SMU in December of 2007. He was also a standout in the classroom, earning first team ESPN The Magazine/CoSIDA Academic All-District honors as a senior. He was a three-time member of the Peach Belt Conference Presidential Academic Honor Roll and a member of the A-Sun All-Academic team in 2007-08.