Bengals make strong showing in Chick-Fil-A Classic

COLUMBIA – A pair of double-digit victories in the Carolina Challenge portion of the Chick Fil-A Classic at Richland Northeast could indicate that a team has its bearings straight going into the Christmas break.

Zeke Washington was pleased to see Blythewood on the high end of the scoreboard against Richland Northeast Wednesday and United Faith Christian Thursday. The Bengals head coach, coming off last season’s quest for the 5A state championship, said this year’s team needs to keep working.

Blythewood (7-2) held off, then routed the Cavaliers 67-41 Wednesday. The Bengals followed up with a stronger performance Thursday in an 85-67 dismissal of United Faith Christian of Charlotte.

“We did some good things, but we’ve got a looong way to go,” Washington said after the Thursday win. “That was a quality win against a quality opponent (United Faith Christian). They’ve got some college players, I thought it was big for us to play a team of that caliber and play well. I thought the kids played well, they played better than they did yesterday (Wednesday).”

United Faith Christian (7-5) and Blythewood battled up and down the court for the first eight minutes, trying to find inside routes to the basket, and hoping to make good on 3s.

The Bengals came back from a slight deficit to take a 15-13 lead with a Jonathan Breland basket at the 9:27 mark.

Brett Swilling and Rafael Jenkins responded with back-to-back baskets to give United Faith Christian a 17-15 lead with 8:45 to go in the half.

From that point, everything worked on Blythewood’s offense for the next six minutes.

Tre’ Jackson drew a foul on his successful 3-pointer, and he made the foul shot to give the Bengals a 19-17 lead. That score sparked a 24-2 scoring run to the 2:35 mark of the first half.

At that point, Blythewood polished off a 39-19 lead.

Jackson scored 10 of his game-high 25 points and three of his five 3-pointers in that stretch.as the Bengals took a 42-26 lead into halftime.

United Faith Christian shot 11-for-34, or 32.4 percent in the first half. Blythewood a shade better, 16-for-37, or 43.2 percent. The Bengals were also 6-for-11 in 3-pointers, while United Faith Christian was 2-for-12.

Blythewood opened up a 24-point lead in the second half before United Faith Christian went on a 13-0 scoring run over three minutes midway in the second half.

The Bengals held a 59-48 lead before calling a timeout at the 7:37 mark to regroup. They then went on a 13-4 run to move to a more comfortable 72-54 lead with 4:30 to go in the game.

Robert Braswell had 21 points and 12 rebounds, Breland had 17 points and Travis Thompson had 11 points.

Both Richland Northeast and Blythewood struggled on offense in the first half of Wednesday’s game. Blythewood and the Cavaliers both went 6-for-24, and the Bengals walked off the court at halftime clinging to an 18-14 lead.

Blythewood put together a 49-27 run throughout the second half on 50 percent shooting to rout the Cavaliers. Robert Braswell led all scorers with 26 points, including four of his teams eight 3-pointers. Johnathan Breland had 14 points and Tre’ Jackson scored 14.

So what can Coach Washington impart to the Bengals after this tournament? Everything on the court.

“I want to see our inside game get a little bit better, I want to see our rebounding get a little bit better,” Washington said. “And I want to see us adjust as a team better defensively, man and zone, and I want us to play more physical. We’ve got to be more physical and make better decisions.”

Blythewood played among local teams Richland Northeast, A.C. Flora, and Hammond, as well as York Prep of Rock Hill, Thomasville (Ga.), and Unified Faith Academy. While the Bengals weren’t in the brackets of the tournament that played through Saturday, they were excited to play in front of college recruiters from all over the Southeast.

“They always want to play on the big stage,” Washington said of his team. “The reason we came is because it gives our kids a chance to play in front of college coaches.”

Blythewood plays at the Palmetto Winter Classic at Ben Lippen Dec. 28-30.

Blythewood 85, United Faith Christian 67

UFC:  26 – 41 – 67

BHS:  42 – 43 – 85

UFC: Jaylen Sims 28, Christopher Hill 10, Swilling 9, Canty 8, Hankton 8, Springs 2, Jenkins 2.

BHS: Tre Jackson 25, Robert Braswell 21, Jonathan Breland 17, Travis Thompson 11, Squirewell 7, Williams 4.