Redhawks, Bengals clash at Carolina Challenge

COLUMBIA – The Carolina Challenge portion of the Chick Fil-A Classic wasn’t a part of the main brackets of the post-Christmas tournament at Richland Northeast High School, but both the Westwood and Blythewood boys basketball teams got some good work in.

Russell Jones Jr (2) slices past the Bengals defense and down the baseline. | Ross Burton

The Redhawks and Bengals tipped off the tournament in the RNE main gym Wednesday afternoon. Westwood cruised to a 68-53 victory over its down-the-street rival. On Thursday, Westwood leveled United Faith Christian Academy 70-48, and Blythewood took out Hartsville 83-65.

Redhawks head coach Ty Baumgardner likes the way his team, unbeaten at 15-0, is coming together for Region 3-4A play, which begins Friday. Against United Faith Christian, he watched the Redhawks turn around a 35-31 deficit with a 39-13 rout in the second half.

“I’ve got a great feeling, especially after that great second half right there,” Baumgardner said. “I couldn’t be any prouder of them as a coach after seeing what they did there. I’m the kind of guy who can find something to point out to complain about, but that second half was really good. It’s a heck of a way to go into region play.”

United’s Chris Hill opened the second half with a basket to make it 37-31 over Westwood, but within seven minutes the Redhawks picked up 10 turnovers and burst on a 20-4 run.

The Redhawks took a timeout at the 8:41 mark with a 51-41 lead. When they got back on the floor they closed out the game with a 19-7 run.

Russell Jones Jr. had 25 points and Ta’Jay Dunlap had 21 to lead the Redhawks. Tyrell Huff had 10.

“They (United) played well in the first half, and we didn’t play bad, but they shot the ball really well,” Baumgardner said, noting Josh Massey had 17 of his 21 points in United’s first half. “We didn’t do a good job of guarding him. We put Tyrell on him in the second half and he did a great job of guarding.”

That second half defensive effort is what Baumgardner considers the bread and butter of this year’s Redhawks. Westwood forced 25 turnovers in the game.

“Our defense was really good,” Baumgardner said. “That’s gonna be our calling card, guarding people, being tough, being physical. That’s what got us a lead. They got frustrated.”

Blythewood (11-4, at Eau Claire Saturday) went shot-for-shot against Westwood in Wednesday’s game. Only a late 15-point scoring run gave the Redhawks the distance on the Bengals.

“I thought we wore them down a little bit, but it was a really good game,” Baumgardner said. “It was back and forth and back and forth through the first half and most of the second half.”

The late-game fade is what concerns Zeke Washington. The Blythewood head coach said his team, which finished in the final four among 5A teams last year, said this year’s edition is still looking for an identity.

“I don’t think it was one that hurt, but I don’t think we played as hard as we should have,” Washington said about Wednesday’s game. “I don’t think we played as efficient as we should have. I take my hat off to Westwood, they really played hard. We just gotta do better.”

The Bengals finished their presence in the Chick Fil-A on a high note with a romp over Hartsville.

Trae Hannibal, a University of South Carolina commitment at point guard, scored a game-high 38 points for the Red Foxes, but Blythewood shut down the rest of the team.

Tre’ Jackson led the way with 22 points and Julian Phillips had 14.

“We’re trying to get it together,” Washington said. “We didn’t finish the way we should have. We’re still trying to find our identity, what exactly we are. We tried to work people in and out and get the kids to pay as hard as we can. That’s us now.”

Usually after Christmas break, a team has an understanding of its strengths and weaknesses. Washington said he’s uncertain about who the Bengals are this year.

“We’re kind of schizophrenic,” he said. “Usually by now you’ve got an idea where you’re going and there are certain things we like to do, and you just gotta get good at those and add a wrinkle or two.”

 

Westwood 68, Blythewood 53

BHS – 25-28 – 53

WHS  – 31-37 – 68

BHS: Tre’ Jackson 27, Thompson 8, Phillips 6, Williams 4, Range 4, Moore 2, Manuel 2.

WHS: Russell Jones Jr. 28, Ta’Jay Dunlap 13, Tyrell Huff 11, Wormack 5, Lewis 5, Horn 4, Green 2.

 

Westwood 70, UFC-NC 48

WHS – 31-39 – 70

UFC-NC – 35-13 – 48

WHS: Russell Jones Jr. 25, Ta’Jay Dunlap 21, Tyrell Huff 10, Lewis 9, Horn 4, Wormack 1.

UFC-NC: Josh Massey 21, Jason Thompson 11, Johnson 4, Cooper 4, Hill 4, Cortez 3, Morris 1

 

Blythewood 83, Hartsville 65

HHS – 29-36 – 65

BHS – 35-48 – 83

HHS: Trae Hannibal 38, Cesare Edwards 11, Pendergrass 5, O’Neal 5, Cuffie 4, Capehart 2.

BHS: Tre’ Jackson 22, Travis Thompson 15, Julian Phillips 14, Range 8, Shepherd 6, Moore 4, Hardy 4, Williams 4, Manuel 4, Isreal 2.