Bengals Hold Off Cyclones

Lady Bengals Come Up Short

CHESTER (Jan. 6, 2016) – Zeke Washington had a happy homecoming Tuesday night.

Washington, the former athletic director and coach at Chester who led the Lady Cyclones basketball team to a state title in 2004, was Tuesday on the visitor’s bench. His Blythewood Bengals boys’ basketball team took the lead late in the second quarter on an 11-0 run and never gave it up, winning over the Cyclones 63-51.

The game got off to a bit of ragged start, with both teams suffering through a spate of turnovers and missed shots. Midway through the frame, Blythewood found its rhythm from outside the arc, with Keith Matthews, Cameron Womack and Jacobi Bailey all connecting on three-pointers. Chester managed to stick close thanks to five points from Malik Williams and three from Troy Minter on a nice put-back. It was 15-12 Blythewood after one.

In the second, Chester opened on a 10-2 run. Despite Blythewood’s advantage in height and length, the Cyclones did a good job on the boards to earn some second-chance points. Demetric Hardin banged in a three-pointer, Quay Hardin poured in a long jumper and Chester was on top 22-19 with all the momentum.

According Cyclones coach Sebastian Hopkins, though, three things brought the spurt to an end.

“Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers,” Hopkins said. “They killed us.”

Matthews ended the run with a lay-up, then Blythewood forced a quick turnover, which Eli Lake converted into a basket. He was fouled in the process and drained a free throw to give his team the lead back at 24-22.

Trae Churn swiped an in-bounds pass and got another lay-up and by the end of the frame, the Bengals had rolled off 11 straight points to go ahead 30-22. They then extended that run by scoring the first four points of the third quarter.

Quay Hardin and Williams tried to shoot Chester back into the game, with each connecting on treys. A long one by Williams from the top of the key got Chester back to within six at 40-34, but the Bengals built the advantage back up to 10 by the end of the quarter.

Chester’s continued outside assault kept them close up to the midway point of the third. After threes from Devan Beatty and Williams, the Cyclones got to within five points at 50-45, but Charles Jackson slammed the door with a long three for the Bengals and Lake had the highlight of the night, throwing down a reverse alley-oop dunk as the Bengals pulled away in the final minutes.

Washington said his team had plenty of room for improvement but did some things well too.

“The three-point shot was there tonight and we got some key rebounds,” Washington said. “We rebounded well at the defensive end and didn’t give them many second shots. We’re pretty long, but we’ve got to do a better job of offensive rebounding.”

Hopkins said Tuesday that his team performed much better against the Bengals than when the teams met a few weeks ago at Blythewood. Chester lost that one by 33.

“We went down there with big eyes last time,” Hopkins said. “We knew we could play with them, though. We played solid defense tonight. The guys really played their assignments. Malik and Quay Hardin played well. This is still a young team, but we could have won this one tonight. Our turnovers led to points for them, but this is an excellent tune-up game for the region for us.”

Williams led Chester with 19 points and Demetric Hardin added 12. Nine different Bengals scored against Chester, with Matthews’ 17 leading the very balanced effort.

The Cyclones (6-4) open region play Friday against South Pointe.

In the girls contest, Chester hung on for a 54-47 victory. The Lady Cyclones built a 30-18 lead at halftime and withstood a late Blythewood rally that cut the lead to six. The win avenged an early-season loss to the Lady Bengals.

“Defense,” said Chester coach Jasmine Sanders. “I tell them every day that defense is what wins games.”

When the teams met at Blythewood, Sanders said one player “dictated everything” for the Lady Bengals, so she altered her lineup a little and made a few defensive tweaks. She said the effort her team offered should be a good springboard into Friday’s region opener against South Pointe.

Deja Marshall led Chester with 25. Brownlee McCrorey added 16 for the 4-6 Lady Cyclones. Lauren Harley had 14 while Keayra Jackson and Aubria Greene poured in 10 apiece for Blythewood.