Bengals Punch Ticket to State Title Match

BHS Needs OT to Dispose of Jackets


Josh Bowers (5) drops in a clutch layup for the Bengals Saturday. (Photo/Jason Arthur)

FLORENCE – The Blythewood boys needed to be resilient in fighting off Irmo Saturday at the Florence Civic Center.

Most visibly, the Bengals needed clutch shooting to stay alive at the end of regulation, as well as to walk off the floor with a 61-50 overtime victory over their Region V-5A rival to claim the lower state championship.

“Were the first team in 5A to win the lower state, and we’re the first team from Blythewood to go this far, so we’re making history right now,” said Josh Bowers, who made a layup at the end of regulation to push the game into overtime.

“I just don’t want to lose,” said Keith Matthews, who led the team with 17 points, including a 3-pointer to get things started in OT. “This means the world to me. We worked so hard, and Coach (Zeke Washington) worked so hard, put so much time in with us, it’s only right for us to give him a championship.”

Robert Braswell added 12 points for the Bengals (23-5), who head to the 5A state championship game for the first time in the history of the school.

Irmo (22-6) made its fifth straight semifinal appearance. Last year the Yellow Jackets defeated West Ashley 54-31 only to fall 59-50 to Byrnes in the 4A state championship game.

This year, Blythewood will face Dorman, 61-47 winners over Gaffney for the 5A state championship at the Colonial Center.

Washington, who won state titles with the Fairfield Central boys in 1998 and with the Chester girls in 2004, said the region competition, including Tuesday’s 74-71 win over Lexington in the third round of the playoffs, shows how tough the region is.

“Our whole region is like a university, you learn every game,” Washington said. “It’s almost like he (Irmo head coach Tim Whipple) is my mentor. I’ve been going against Coach Whipple since 1990-some-odd. I’m just happy we got the game. I’ve learned a lot in our region.”

Winston Hill led all scorers with 20 points and 10 rebounds for the Yellow Jackets. Noah Jenkins had 15 points.

After coming back from an 8-point deficit to start the fourth quarter, Irmo took a 45-44 lead with 1:46 to go when Winston Hill hit the front end of a 2-shot foul. Josh Bowers made a pair of free throws to regain Blythewood’s 1-point lead, but Jonathan Henryhood buried a 3-pointer to give the Yellow Jackets a 48-46 lead with less than 30 seconds on the clock.

Bowers went inside for a clutch layup to tie the game with 0.2 seconds left in regulation.

“We passed it around and wanted to get the defense moving around,” Bowers said. “When it came to me, I saw the defense shifted over, and I took a drive, got in the lane and made a bucket.”

Washington noted that basket as well.

“That’s big. He’s a senior. He doesn’t want to go home,” Washington said.

Neither did the rest of the team.

Keith Matthews’ 3 at the 3:18 mark of the 4-minute overtime period set the tone for the Bengals.

Irmo responded with an R.J. Gunn basket, but Jacobi Bailey made a jumper with 2:56 left to give Blythewood a 53-50 lead.

The Bengals went into clock management mode, and scored the last eight points of the game from the free throw line.

Irmo, which beat Blythewood 56-49 Dec. 1, but lost to the Bengals 70-61 Jan. 20, stifled the Blythewood offense from the tipoff. Rather than scoring as many points as possible using their up-tempo attack, the Bengals found themselves battling a full-court press and a backcourt manned by Hill, Gunn and Jenkins, who accounted for 15 of the Yellow Jacket’s 16 first-half rebounds.

Down 10-8 after the first quarter, Blythewood found its stride briefly in the second, thanks to Matthews.

The Yellow Jackets’ Hill got a put-back in to give Irmo a 12-10 lead, but Matthews got a ball in with a short-range jumper to even the score at the 5:14 mark. Matthews then got a defensive rebound, and made a put-back 20 seconds later.

A Matthews steal and basket got Blythewood to a 16-12 lead at the 4:25 mark.

“I was nervous at the beginning, I made a lot of bad plays,” Matthews said. “When I calmed down, we worked on the weaknesses in their zone, and we went on that little run.”

The Bengals’ lead was brief. Baskets from Jenkins and Shyheem Edwards evened the score, and Irmo and Blythewood eventually went into halftime tied at 21.

Blythewood and Irmo exchanged shots for most of the third, but in the final two minutes the Bengals came to life.

Savion Dawkins and Robert Braswell each sank 3-pointers, Braswell made a pair of foul shots, and Josh Bowers found the net for an inside layup at the buzzer to give the Bengals a 38-30 lead going into the fourth.

When Irmo nullified that lead with a 12-2 run and took a 42-40 lead with 2:50 left, Washington said his team knew what to do.

“We’ve gotten better as the year went on,” Washington said. “They knew it was do or die. They knew they had to come and play.”


Blythewood 61, Irmo 50, OT

Irmo      10           11           9              18           2              —             50

Blythewood       8              13           17           10           13           —             61


Winston Hill 20, Noah Jenkins 15, Gunn 9, Henryhand 4, Edwards 2.


Keith Matthews 17, Robert Braswell 12, Jackson 9, Bowers 7, Bailey 7, Dawkins 5, Breeland 4.


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