The Blythewood boys got off to a quick start at Lexington, and the Bengals held on to move into a first-place tie in Region 5-5A with a 61-45 victory Friday.
Blythewood and Irmo are tied with two games to play in the regular season.
Blythewood (16-5, 8-2) jumped out to a 33-10 lead by late in the second quarter, and staved off some solid outside shooting from the Wildcats to secure the win.
“We had to change our lineup a little bit because they went with their guards,” Blythewood coach Zeke Washington said. “We shifted down and we were OK, and I don’t think we did a bad job defensively.”
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The Bengals got 10 points apiece from Keith Matthews and Robert Braswell, and six other Bengals made regular trips to the basket.
Darius Bryant led Lexington (19-6, 7-4) with 21 points, including five 3-pointers, but the Wildcats couldn’t make up for the loss of two starters. Second-leading scorer Caleb Shackelford was out of town for his father’s funeral, and Tyler Reed is out for the season with a torn ACL.
The Wildcats were 6 for 22 from the floor in the first half, and were outrebounded 23-11 while the Bengals were making their first-half run.
Lexington coach Bailey Harris said the lack of rebounders didn’t help.
“You need somebody to be able to drive and be able to get some kickouts,” Harris said. “We had a hard time getting that going early. Once we started knocking them down, we started to get some life. But the biggest thing is that we’ve had a hard time rebounding or doing anything defensively because we’re out of baseliners or forwards or post guys down there and that hurt.”
Even so, Harris said his team was ready to take on the fast-paced Bengals.
“We got in such a hole early 10-0, and I thought we were patient early, had good looks, but the shots didn’t go down,” Harris said. “Playing catch-up against those guys is tough. We weren’t quite as patient after that, and that didn’t help us.”
The Wildcats went down 33-10 by the 2:46 mark of the second quarter, and it appeared by then Blythewood was going to cruise to an easy victory.
After a Lexington timeout, Bryant singlehandedly cut into the lead by 10 points. He sank two 3-pointers, a basket, and a pair of free throws to make it 33-20 before Matthews closed out the first half with a basket to make it 35-20.
Lexington cut into the lead to start the third quarter, as Will Haney and Mason Carter hit 3-pointers to make it 35-26.
“We had a couple of situations where we lost our composure,” Washington said. “ I’m proud of the guys because they could have sunk their heads down, they could have lost it, but they didn’t do that.”
Matthews and Braswell got a pair of baskets before Bryant drained another 3 to make it 39-29 at the halfway point of the third. Shortly afterward, Jacob Bailey got a basket and Keith Matthews hit a 3 to help ensure a double-digit Blythewood lead the rest of the way.
“They’re a good team,” Washington said. “Lexington did a great job of putting the ball in the hole, and their defense bothered us a bit, but our guys kept their composure.”
Blythewood closes out the regular season with a home game against White Knoll on Tuesday and at Spring Valley on Friday.
“We’ve gotta get the next two,” Washington said. “We’ve got to keep ‘em focused and that’s hard because a lot of times all they hear is the negative. What I’ve gotta try to do is make sure I say something positive sometimes.”
B: Keith Matthews 10, Robert Braswell 10, Jackson 9, Breeland 8, Bowers 8, Riley 7, Bailey 7, Shakir-Harris. L: Darius Bryant 21, Davenport 9, Carter 8, Neuberger 4, Haney 3
Lexington’s 14-5 second quarter gave it a 20-17 halftime lead and the Wildcats held on for the win.
B: Camryn Bostick 13, Diamond Gallman 10, Smith 4, Weeks 3, Jackson 2, Shepherd 2, Jackson 2. L: Olivia Thompson 19, Alanna Langford 17, Miller 4, Davis 3, St. Andrews 2.