First Region Win Eludes Lady Bengals

Breelyn Blanding runs into strong resistance driving into the paint. (Photo/Kristy Kimball Massey)

COLUMBIA – The Blythewood Lady Bengals took on the Lady Vikings of Spring Valley in a gritty matchup Tuesday night, but lost 50-42 in the contest, falling to 0-2 in region play and 7-8 on the year.

After a 24-24 tie at halftime, the Lady Bengals controlled much of the momentum in the second half, focusing their attention on defense to containing potential McDonald’s All-American Cierra Carter; a strategy that worked to near perfection until late in the game, when Carter buried a deep three and drew a foul for the illusive four-point play, driving home the final nail in the coffin for the Lady Bengals.

“We tried to make her work hard for her points tonight,” said head coach Steve Inabinet of Carter. “We played her as well as we could, but she is a good player.”

Carter certainly had to earn her points in the game, as 15 of her game-leading 23 points came from the free throw line.

“We went diamond-and-one on her and I think the strategy worked, but if you slip up once or twice, she will make you pay for it,” said Inabinet.

The Lady Bengals jumped out to an early lead, which left the stunned Vikings faithful shell-shocked. Blythewood led 14-9 at the end of the first quarter.

Spring Valley fought hard to climb back into contention in the second quarter, adjusting to the Lady Bengals’ defense and creating opportunities for carter to get to the rim. The Lady Vikings outscored Blythewood 15-10 in the second quarter, bringing the score to a 24-all tie at the halftime break.

The third quarter was a scrappy one, with both teams fighting to gain a substantial lead. The Lady Bengals’ defense forced four consecutive turnovers from Spring Valley.

Playing most of the second half with three fouls, Blythewood center, Brooke Taylor, stepped up the defensive pressure with two blocks in a row. But for all the opportunities the defensive play presented, the Lady Bengals couldn’t convert them into points on the other end. The third quarter ended with Spring Valley up 33-28.

Two minutes into the fourth quarter, Taylor picked up her fourth foul. Carter seized the opportunity and attacked the middle of the Lady Bengals’ defense, extending the lead to 41-30 with 4:48 to go in the game. Just as Blythewood seemed to gain momentum from a defensive five-seconds call, Carter drove in the dagger with the three-ball plus the foul.

Blythewood fouled and tried to extend the game, but the Lady Vikings converted on their free throws to preserve the lead, winning 52-40.

Jasrial Thompson led the Lady Bengals with 10 points. Breelyn Blanding had eight points for Blythewood.

While the Lady Bengals would have preferred to come home with a victory, coach Inabinet was pleased with the effort he saw from his team.

“We played to win, which is all you can ask for,” said Inabinet. “For the last six or seven games, we have been playing solid basketball. I stress to the players how important it is to win these conference games if we are going to reach our goal of making the playoffs, but if we continue to play with the effort we had tonight, it will pay off.”

The lady Bengals will look to pick up their first conference win of the season when they travel to Lugoff to take on the Demons of Lugoff-Elgin on Jan. 17.