The Blythewood boys’ 74-71 victory over Lexington in the third round of the 5A playoffs Tuesday night was a closer game than they usually play.
For the first time in a long time, the Bengals trailed an opponent in the third quarter Tuesday night.
“We didn’t get nervous, we always knew we could come back,” Blythewood guard and leading scorer Tre Jackson said. “We had to keep fighting hard, keep playing defense, make some stops.”
Jackson had 22 points, Josh Bowers had 12, and Khalil Shakir-Harris added 10 for the Bengals.
Darius Bryant led Lexington with 26 points. Caleb Shackleford had 19 and Bradley Foulks had 11.
Blythewood (22-5) heads to the Florence Civic Center on Saturday to play another Region 5-5A rival, Irmo, for the lower state championship. Irmo, which won lower state last year, defeated Goose Creek 59-44 on the road Tuesday night.
Lexington, which had fallen to the Bengals twice in Region 5-5A play, made Blythewood work for its victory. The Wildcats had upset second-seeded West Ashley and top-seeded Sumter on the road in the playoffs.
“All the credit goes to these guys,” Bengals coach Zeke Washington said, referring to his team. “They stuck in there and played well, they did what they had to do. That’s a great team over there (Lexington). They’re coached well. I’ve learned a lot just going up against him, coach (Bailey) Harris.”
A Bryant layup had given Lexington (23-7) a brief 39-37 lead with 4:44 left in the third. It was the 10th lead change in the game–but not the last.
Jackson tied the game at 39 with a basket 20 seconds later, and Jacobi Bailey made good on a three-point play to make it 42-39.
Those two scores were the start of an 18-4 scoring run over the next four minutes that brought the Bengals to a more comfortable 55-43 lead near the close of the third quarter.
That cushion didn’t last long, either. Shackleford sneaked in a layup and Bryant sank a 3-pointer in the final seconds of the third to make it 55-48 Blythewood at the third-quarter buzzer.
The Wildcats continued to reel in the Bengals. With 5:27 to go in the game, Foulks drained a 3 to make it 63-61 Blythewood, and Bryant drew a foul when he scored in the paint a minute later to tie the game again.
Bryant’s free throw missed, and Robert Braswell later put the Bengals ahead with a tip-in.
Even with less than 30 seconds on the clock, Blythewood’s 70-66 lead wasn’t safe. Bryant drew a foul with 28 seconds left and made both free throws.
Keith Matthews made a pair of free throws to give the Bengals a 72-68 lead with six seconds left, but Bryant drained a 3 after play resumed and Lexington managed to call a timeout with a half second on the clock.
The only recourse Lexington had at that point was to draw a foul, and that sent Bailey to the line. Bailey’s shots both fell to ensure the Bengals their spot in the lower state final.
“It definitely could have gone either way at the end,” Harris said. “It was interesting down there at the end. I thought we made some plays that put us in a position to win, but we didn’t quite get that opportunity.”
L: Darius Bryant 26, Caleb Shackelford 19, Bradley Foulks 11, Haney 8, Neuberger 4, Carver 3 B: Tre Jackson 22, Josh Bowers 12, Khalil Shakir-Harris 10, Braswell 9, Riley 8, Bailey 7, Matthews 6.