Lady Bengals booted from first round of state playoffs

Blythewood’s Jasrial Thompson (10) drops in a layup against Ridge View last week.

With a playoff spot already clinched the Lady Bengals basketball team (16-9, 6-4) needed a win at Ridge View (16-9, 7-3) on Friday night to secure the number three seed. Blythewood spoiled the Lady Blazers’ “Senior Night” with a 44-36 victory. Blythewood never led in the first half, and in fact, were behind 10-1 at the end of the first quarter and 18-11 at halftime. However, the Lady Bengals did not quit and opened up the second half on a 13-3 run and took the lead 24-21 halfway through the third quarter. After the game Blythewood head Steve Inabinet said he was proud of his team’s resiliency.

“That was a great run for us,” he said.

Blythewood switched up the offensive game plan in the second half by using a five-guard lineup. The guards gave the Lady Bengals an advantage in ball handling and provided better free throw shooters on the floor. In a one possession ball game Kierra Brown, Breelyn Blanding and Lauren Harley hit a combined seven clutch free throws down the stretch. The Blythewood coaching staff also changed the defensive game plan by going to their 2-1-2 zone. Inabinet explained the reasoning behind the defensive change.

“We were trying to turn those turnovers into points,” he said.

The Lady Bengals were able to grab 14 steals and force 17 turnovers. Blanding, who was playing her first game in a month after a knee injury, ended with eight points all coming in the second half. Although freshman Jasrial Thompson was the player of the game. Thompson grabbed some critical offensive boards and scored key points down the stretch. She finished with a season high 17 points.

With that win the Lady Bengals locked up the number three seed and earned a date with Lady Green Hornets (17-7, 6-4) at Aiken for a first round playoff game Tuesday night. Aiken was the number two seed out of Region V-4A. Their 50.4 points per game is second highest in the region. Blythewood was ousted in the first round by a score of 59-41. The Lady Bengals started the game with a 5-2 lead but Aiken countered with a 7-0 run and would never relinquish the lead. Inabinet gave all the credit to the opposition after the game.

“They (Aiken) were just a step quicker than us tonight,” he said.

Aiken shot a solid 45 percent from the floor and spread the ball around gracefully with a team total of 19 assists. With three minutes remaining in regulation Blythewood cut the deficit to 12 points at 53-41, but back to back turnovers and a 6-0 run by Aiken to end the game halted the Lady Bengals comeback attempt. Inabinet believes his offense never gained any fluid motion.

“Our offense is built on motion,” he noted. “Tonight we were just watching and not moving.”

For Blythewood, it’s their third straight exit in the first round of the post-season and it’s a bitter ending for the five seniors: Kierra Brown, Aaliyah Keels, Kimberly Cobb, Gabrielle Morgan and India Maple. However, after the loss Inabinet had nothing but good things to say about his senior class.

“They’ve been a very important part of our program the last four years,” he stated. “We’re going to really miss those ladies.”

Despite the departure of those five seniors the future is bright for the Lady Bengals. Two freshmen, Harley and Thompson, played hefty minutes and combined for 9.3 points per game; as well as Blanding, a sophomore, who was third on the team in scoring with 10.3 points per game. Inabinet is looking forward to next season.

“Hopefully this season gave them (Harley, Thompson and Blanding) a great experience,” he said. “And next year they come back ready to work hard and play.”