Westwood wins Lower State, faces North Augusta today

Photo | @WHSRedhawks

FLORENCE – The Westwood girls basketball team’s 52-37 victory over A.C. Flora in the lower state final was a quick wire-to-wire win Friday night at the Florence Center.

For head coach Gregory Bauldrick, as well as the team, that victory has been a long time in coming. Westwood reached the upper state finals for three straight years from 2018-2020. Each time the final buzzer sounded, the Redhawks watched their seasons draw to a close.

“We’re just so proud of our kids,” Bauldrick said. “They’ve been resilient all year, they’ve been focused. They knew that this year was the year that we could possibly, possibly get the monkey off our back and get an opportunity to play for a state championship. I’m just so proud of them, but our work is not done yet.”

Instead of turning in its uniforms this week, Westwood (26-4) heads to the University of South Carolina-Aiken to take on North Augusta Thursday at 5 p.m.

“We’ve grown up so much since last year,” All-State player and senior Korletta Daniels said. “We got stronger physically, and that really helped us as a team. We can’t get too comfortable right now we’ve got to finish one more.”

The Yellow Jackets (25-3) beat Wade Hampton of Greenville 58-50 in the upper state final at Bob Jones University Friday. They have reached the state championship game six times in the last seven years, winning four times between 2017-2020.

Westwood, which beat A.C. Flora twice in the regular season, punched the Falcons in the mouth from the start and held them off the rest of the way using a nearly impenetrable defense under the net. The Redhawks outrebounded Flora 31-19 and picked up 11 steals on the night.

“It was critical,” Bauldrick said of his team’s defensive effort. “We’re familiar with them, and they’re familiar with us, and everything starts with Trinity Delaney in the paint, and we needed to deny the ball there and defend the perimeter shooters and we were able to do that out of a 2-3 (zone).”

The Redhawks got started with a 9-0 run and finished the first quarter leading 16-5. They kept the Falcons scoreless through the first five minutes of the second quarter and headed to the locker room with a 25-11 advantage at halftime.

“I thought that was critical,” Bauldrick said. “Like boxing, we want to throw the jab and when we’re connecting we want to throw the right hand. We did that, and they didn’t initially respond to it, and we wanted to keep up the pressure going.” A.C. Flora tried to make moves in the third and fourth quarters, especially when Westwood got into foul trouble.

Midway through the third quarter the Falcons were down 32-13, the Redhawks’ largest margin of the game. Raven Thompson, who had 11 points and seven rebounds in the game by then, sat on the bench with four fouls.

Jacklyn Wright-Thompson made a layup, Trinity Delaney added a pair of foul shots, and Terriana Gray got a steal and put up a basket to cut that led down to 13 points by the three-minute mark of the third.

Kimauri Chatman, Woods, and Thompson each got in a basket through the next stretch to keep Flora at a distance, but the Falcons got in a brief 5-point run to close out the third trailing 38-28.

Westwood did get into the fourth quarter leading by double digits, but A.C. Flora senior Trinity Delaney and junior Terriana Gray were poised to spark their team into making a final run for the right to play next week.

To make matters more interesting, not long after Johnson came back onto the court, she drew a foul and had to sit back down for the duration.

“We were tracking three fouls at the time she got her fifth,” Bauldrick said. “I guess the book had four, but glory be to God it didn’t hurt us too bad.”

While Westwood did miss Johnson’s presence inside, the team did not miss a beat in holding off a Flora rally. The Redhawks matched the Falcons shot-for-shot and kept their Region 5-4A rivals behind by about 15 points, until Skylar McCray’s 3-pointer cut Westwood’s lead to 49-37.

By that point, with two minutes left, the Redhawks were intent on getting the game over with.

“We made some very good decisions earlier to give us some wiggle room,” Bauldrick said. “It got to the point we were making personal mistakes that, had the game been closer, it might have been a different outcome.”

Going back into play after Flora’s final score of the game—with 2:01 left—there wasn’t any time for A.C. Flora to make up the difference. Westwood held the ball for more than a minute, then went to the foul line twice and hit three out of four shots.

Each time the Falcons would trim the lead to 10 or 11 points, A.C. Flora head coach Jacob Thompson said. “We’d get fouled and get two free throws and make one. We’d get down there and get a good look, we’d get it to 10 and if we missed a layup one time they’d put it in down there. They made a lot more plays than we did, and they made those plays when they mattered.”

The Redhawks took possession in the final 40 seconds and ran the clock out to secure the win.

Jessica Woods, who is Region 5-4A’s Player of the Year and also made the 4A All State team, was the last link to the team’s upper-state championship loss in 2020. She was a little wary coming into Friday’s game, but once the action started she knew the team could win.

“At first I was a little anxious because I have been here and I have lost,” she said. “It got to me a little bit, but when I asked God for help, He gave me help and I was able to lead my team and we came out on a hundred (percent).”

Woods led the Redhawks with 14 points. Johnson finished with 11 points and Makiah Thompson had 11 points.

Gray was the only double-figures scorer for A.C. Flora with 16 points, 14 of which came in the second half.

Westwood turns its attention to North Augusta this evening. Both teams went unbeaten in their respective regions and have similar scoring arcs throughout this season’s games. Omeire, an All-Region pick, and her teammates said the Redhawks are ready for anything that comes along.

“We thrive on our defense, it’s how we win games,” Omiere said. “Our defense is what gives us those steals and transition points. Just the little things. We live off of disruption, we try to disrupt the mindset of the other team. We are the more experienced team, we know who we are and we’re confident who we are.”

Added Thompson, another All-Region player, “We work every day at getting better, playing through, being tough. If we keep making free throws, at the end of the day it’ll be good.”


A.C. Flora – 5-6-17-9 — 37              

Westwood – 16-9-13-14 — 52

A.C. Flora

Terriana Gray 16, Trinity Delaney 9, McCray 5, Wright-Thompson 5, Curnell 2


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