Bengals battle with Gamecocks

COLUMBIA – The Sumter boys basketball team nearly matched Blythewood shot for shot Friday night, but for a third-quarter blip and late fourth-quarter turnovers.

Those two factors were all Blythewood needed to close out a 59-53 victory over the Gamecocks to complete the 2-game sweep of their Region 5-5A rivals.

“They played well,” Blythewood head coach Zeke Washington said about the Gamecocks. “They played aggressive, but we played tough and we were physical. We were unselfish. That’s all a coach can ask for. You don’t have to do much when you play like that.”

Kamryn Manuel attempts the fall away floater. | Ross Burton

Tre’ Jackson finished the night with 17 points to lead the Bengals. Travis Thompson had 11 points and Julian Phillips had 10.

The Bengals came into the game following a vindicating 56-45 victory at Irmo the previous Tuesday. Blythewood had lost the home matchup to the Yellow Jackets at the buzzer Jan. 11.

“I think the way we’re built and the way we are,” Washington said. “I’ve always wanted us to be a physical, gruesome team, and I think they did that in the last couple of games. If we can keep on, we can be OK.”

For Sumter, Cody McCoy scored 15 points and Jaylen Johnson hit four 3-pointers to finish with 12 points to lead Sumter (11-11, 3-3). But turnovers and other ball-handling mistakes enabled Blythewood (17-6, 4-2) to build a 10-point lead by the final four minutes of the game.

“Against a team like this, we can’t have 20 turnovers,” said Sumter head coach Shawn Jones, whose team lost 84-81 in overtime to the Bengals Jan. 15. “The conference is so even right now. The guys played well, we just have to rebound better and take care of the ball better.”

Sumter rode a 3-game win streak into Friday night, but Blythewood jumped to a 16-11 lead late in the first quarter.

Jaylen Johnson erased that deficit with a 3-pointer that closed out the first and another 3 to open the second quarter. Those shots sparked a 10-0 run that gave the Gamecocks a 21-16 lead by the 4:47 mark of the second quarter.

The Bengals, shot an uncharacteristically bad 0-for-6 behind the 3-point arc in the first half.

“They were good shots,” Washington said. “We just didn’t make them fall, but we had to take them.”

Blythewood made up the ground with the inside play of Phillips and Thompson. Phillips was good for two baskets in the paint to close the gap to 21-20, and Thompson had two shots and a free throw to eventually tie the game at 25 just before the half. Jackson, who missed his first four 3-point attempts, made good at the free-throw line to give Blythewood a 27-25 lead at intermission.

The Bengals finally separated from the Gamecocks in the third quarter. A 10-3 scoring run featuring 3-pointers from Markel Samuels and Jackson gave Blythewood a 39-32 lead at the 2:47 mark.

Sumter was down 43-37 to start the fourth quarter, but far from out. The Gamecocks made it to the basket with ease, but their shots didn’t fall and turnovers hampered their comeback attempt.

Phillips’ dunk with 1:40 left made it 58-50 Blythewood, which all but sealed the victory.

“Our kids were real active,” Washington said. “They were able to get into passing lanes, they were able to get some steals, they were able to get good reads. They just played.”

It was frustrating for Jones to see leading scorer Omar Crosky finish the night with seven points, but he knows the Gamecocks are a strong team.

“We just gotta keep grinding,” said Jones, whose team has tough road games at Spring Valley Tuesday and at Irmo Friday. “We played West Florence twice and beat them, and they lead their region (6-5A), so that says a lot about this region.”

Blythewood is at Lugoff-Elgin Tuesday and plays host to Spring Valley in the region finale Friday.


SHS  – 14-11-12-16 – 53

BHS – 16-11-16-16 – 59

SHS: Cody McCoy15, Jaylen Johnson 12, Crosky 7, Jones 7, Brunson 5, Craft 4, Fortune 3.

BHS: Tre’ Jackson 17, Travis Thompson 11, Julian Phillips 10, Manuel 9, Range 8, Samuels 3, Williams 1.

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