Redhawks head to Upper State Final

BLYTHEWOOD – Westwood girls basketball team had to search long and hard to find a way to stay ahead of Lower Richland Monday night.

The Redhawks did so late in the third quarter, staging a small 7-0 rally to take an 8-point lead.

Maliyah Lockett (11) fights through the suffocating Lower Richland post defense. Lockett hit her 1,000th career point in the playoff game, joining the ranks of only three other Redhawks in the school’s history. | Leroy Howard

That cushion was all Westwood needed to build a 63-47 victory over the Diamond Hornets and advance to the lower state final Friday in Greenville.

“We were talking about that all weekend,” Westwood head coach Gregory Bauldrick said. “Sometimes in life you don’t get a second opportunity. So in this game we had to come out and control the controllables, and earn our way to play.”

Westwood (23-5) plays Region 3-4A rival South Pointe for the third time this year. The Stallions defeated Ridge View 58-24 Tuesday.

“It’s the rubber match, how about that?” Bauldrick said. “It should be interesting. We’ll be up to the challenge.”

The Redhawks lost their only region game at South Pointe in January, but beat the Stallions 73-55 Feb. 5 to win the region title and clinch the No.1 seed in the playoffs.

The third matchup, at Bon Secours Arena, will be for the upper state championship. The winner will play the winner of North Augusta-Myrtle Beach lower state championship game, at Florence, in the state championship game next week at the Colonial Center.

“That’s got be crazy,” said Unique Drake, who led all scorers with 21 points on the night. “But we should do very well in that game. Last year going to that big arena, we weren’t really prepared for that, but we’ll be more prepared mentally.”

Monday’s game was entirely different from the Redhawks’ 91-13 win over Belton-Honea Path and 87-34 dismissal of Daniel in the first and second rounds.

Lower Richland outrebounded Westwood 20-12 in the first half, but had 14 turnovers in the first two quarters to the Redhawks’ 7.

Points were few for both teams as the Diamond Hornets and the Redhawks battled for possessions, but shooting percentages for both dwindled.

Westwood held a 26-20 lead at the half, but the Diamond Hornets (19-7) got a basket apiece from post players Tasharia Jones and Lanya Smith early in a defense-dominated third quarter. Two minutes after a Maliyah Lockett foul shot, Anita Nelson stole a loose ball and got in a layup with 3:37 to go in the third, which cut Westwood’s lead to 27-26.

Bauldrick called a timeout to try and curb Lower Richland’s momentum, which worked.

When play resumed, Westwood staged a tiny rally, enough to put seven points on the board.

Essence Marshall got things started with a 3-pointer with 3 minutes to go. After Nyah Leveretter’s basket, Marshall swiped up a loose ball and fired it to Unique Drake who put it up for another score.

That small surge gave the Redhawks a big enough cushion to keep the Diamond Hornets behind for the rest of the way.

“She really got it going,” Bauldrick said of Marshall, who had 11 points on the night. “She stretched the floor for us a little bit, she wanted to get into specific spots where she could knock down some threes for us and she did that. She had a lot of energy for us on the defensive end as well.”

Westwood opened the final quarter with a 38-32 lead, stretched it to 47-35 when Marshall drained a 3-pointer midway through the period.

“I think we finally realized that we got eight minutes left to figure this thing out,” Bauldrick said. “We settled down a little bit, picked it up defensively, did a better job on the boards.”

Lower Richland got into foul trouble in the final stretch, which enabled the Redhawks to take a 63-43 lead into the final minute.

“We mainly wanted to protect the ball and make sure they wouldn’t get back in the game,” Drake said about the mission in the final quarter. “We had to play this game like it was our last game.”

Just before the half, Maliyah Lockett drained a 3, then took a down-court pass from Ja’la Wade and laid up a transition shot at the halftime buzzer. Those points were enough to put Lockett in Westwood’s 1,000 point club.

She joins Mya Belton, who graduated last year, Russell Jones Jr. who ended his career with the Redhawks in Saturday’s second-round playoff loss at Greenville High, and current teammate Unique Drake.

“That’s a blessing we all made it to 1,000 points,” Drake said. “I’m proud of her, happy for her. We’re going to cherish this moment together.”

Westwood lost to North Augusta—which will play Myrtle Beachin the lower state final—in last year’s upper state final. Westwood knows the pressure of hitting the road to Greenville and trying to do one better than the loss to the Yellow Jackets.

“There’s only pressure if there’s something you don’t want,” Bauldrick said. “We understand the challenge and we’re going to embrace it, we’re going to enjoy the ride, but we understand the moment as well.”

Westwood 63, Lower Richland 47

LRHS – 10-10-12-15 – 47

WHS – 15-11-12-25 – 63

LRHS – Anita Nelson 16, Lanya Smith 12, Zala Adams 10, Canty 4, Jones 3, Brooks 2.

WHS – Drake 21, Marshall 11, Lockett 10, Etheridge 9, Leveretter 8, Wade 2, Frederick 2.

Feb. 15: Westwood 87, Daniel 34

DHS – 8-11-10-5 – 34

WHS – 25-18-18-26 – 87

DHS – Sincere Hicks 14, Farish 5, Scott 4, Lay 4, Taylor 3, Young 2, Von Sant 2

WHS – Lockett 22, Drake 15, Etheridge 14, Leveretter 14, McCant 10, Marshall 5, Frederick 5, Mines 2.

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