Westside rallies past Westwood girls, Redhawks end season short of title

BLYTHEWOOD – A first-quarter scoring run wasn’t enough.

Jessica Woods’ 25 points—including 5 3-pointers—sadly could not make the winning difference at the Castle Feb. 23.

Jessica Woods (0) averaged 19.8 points per game this season. | Leroy Howard

Instead, it was Westside’s fierce defense inside the 3-point arc and the defending 4-A champion Rams’ four points in the final 45 seconds of their 47-44 victory that closed out an otherwise great  season of Westwood girls basketball.

“We knew it was going to be tough coming in. They’re not the defending state champs, or 25-0, or No.1 in the state for no reason,” Westwood head coach Gregory Bauldrick said. “Down the stretch we knew we had a chance to win. We had some unfortunate situations that went against us in the end, but that’s the game. We’ll just have to learn from that experience.”

Westwood (20-7) rolled up a 17-8 lead at the end of the first quarter. Woods scored 12 of those points, including two 3s, but the Redhawks struggled from the very beginning to manage a presence under the net.

The backcourt duo of 6-1 sophomore Olivia Randolph and senior Destiny Middleton had a lot to say about that effort. Randolph, who with Ahrianna Scott scored 12 points apiece, pulled down 14 rebounds and blocked two shots, while Middleton had eight boards and two blocks.

Around that core of the Rams defense, Westwood managed just 7-for-46 shooting inside the 3-point arc, or 15 percent.

“We just weren’t able to get under there,” Bauldrick said of opportunities closer to the net. “They are who we thought they were. I think that post player Olivia, she is everything that the scouting report said she would be.”

Westwood found success in hitting 3s, going 7-for-18, or 39 percent, behind the arc.

Westside erased Westwood’s 9-point lead by the second quarter and the Redhawks clung to a 25-24 advantage at the half. Both teams battled to a 30-30 tie by the end of the third quarter, but the Rams opened the fourth quarter with a 7-2 to take a 37-32 lead.

From that point, the Redhawks had to play catch-up, and the Westside defense continued to clamp down under the nets.

Away from the nets was a different story, one that Woods and the Redhawks were aiming to rewrite into a come-from-behind thriller victory.

The Rams held a 42-35 lead in the final two minutes, but Woods reignited the Westwood crowd with a 3. After Middleton made one of two foul shots, Makia Thompson came up big with a clutch 3 at the 1:38 mark to cut the Rams’ lead to 43-41.

Westside lost possession shortly after. Woods eventually took her familiar position behind the 3-point line, took a pass from the baseline and drained a 3 with 56 seconds left that gave the Redhawks a 44-43 lead.

The Rams made their next touch of the basketball quick, driving down the court in seconds and setting up a Brianna Pruitt basket to retake the lead with 45 seconds left.

Westwood got called for a turnover on the next possession, and Middleton delivered on two foul shots with 15 seconds left.

When the Redhawks got the ball again, the intent was to drive down quickly and take the best available shot, Bauldrick said.

Woods got the ball in her hands, drove under the basket and put up a layup, but it fell short. Raven Johnson grabbed the rebound and put it up again, but again the ball couldn’t make it to the rim.

Randolph got the defensive board and the Rams held onto the basketball until the buzzer sounded.

“We knew that it was going to be a nice layup, and we thought we’d take a timeout right after that,” Bauldrick said. “We would readjust and see if we could get something quick. It was double bonus, but it just didn’t work out like that.”

Westside (27-0) moved on to defeat Catawba Ridge (23-3) 44-36 at Bob Jones University for the upper state championship Tuesday.  They’ll play North Augusta, which won 47-42 over South Florence.

As for the Redhawks, Bauldrick said they will overcome the bitterness that comes from such a close loss.

Westwood loses just one senior, Thamia Davis, from the team. Woods, Korletta Daniels, Raven Johnson, Makia Thompson, and the rest of the team will return with the intent of going at least one game further than this year.

“When we started the season, we were not sure we would be. We had a brand new team (Woods and Daniels were the only two returners),” Bauldrick said. “We knew they were going to be young, inexperienced at the varsity level, but they worked, they grinded, they bought into what we do in our system, and they competed every night.

“We were on the short end of the stick tonight, but we love them, and we are proud of them. We certainly believe this will be an experience that we’ll learn from. I hate to see it, but we’ll be back here next year, and competing for championships as well.”

Westside – 8-16-6-17 — 47

Westwood – 17-8-5-14 — 44

Westside Ahrianna Scott 12, Olivia Randolph 12, Middleton 7, Bell 8, Pruitt 6, Grimes 2.

Westwood – Jessica Woods 25, Omiere 6, Thompson 5, Branch 3, Johnson 3, Tham. Davis 2.

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