With a roster of nine upperclassmen, the Spring Valley girls basketball team has played it share of big games over the years.
It showed Monday against Westwood.
The defending state champion Vikings used that experience, and got big games from their 1-2 punch of Christian Hithe and Shantay Taylor as they defeated the Redhawks 69-33 in a matchup of top-five teams in the Class 4A South Carolina coaches poll.
“I think we did a good job mentally preparing our team,” Spring Valley coach Anne Long said. “A young team like Westwood isn’t going to be afraid of our tradition, because they don’t know any better, and we knew they were going to come after us. I thought we did a good job getting our players focused on what we needed to do.”
Spring Valley takes over first place in Region 4-4A by a half-game over Ridge View, and a game over the Redhawks as the first go-around in region play is nearly complete.
“This is a confidence builder for us,” Taylor said. “When we lost to Ridge View, our confidence was a little shaky, but we had to build it back up and play as a team.”
While playing in big games is nothing new for the Vikings, it’s unchartered waters for Westwood, which starts three freshmen and have already set a school record for victories with 15. Those young players came up big in wins over Lexington, Keenan and Ridge View, but were no match for the Vikings.
Spring Valley (16-2, 4-1) used a 1-2-2 zone defense and some full-court pressure to force the Redhawks into 27 turnovers, 16 in the first half, and held Westwood (15-3, 3-2) to a season-low point total. The Vikings also kept the ball out of Westwood freshman Unique Drake’s hands. Drake was held to seven points and one field goal, which came with less than a minute left in the third quarter.
Mya Belton and Mayliah Lockett, Westwood’s other double-figure scorers, were held to a combined 6 points.
“We wanted to give them different looks and mix things up,” Long said. “With their inexperience, we just wanted to keep them guessing. And I thought Dominique Hill did a great job on Drake.”
Offensively, Hithe and Taylor led the way. Hithe, a Central Florida signee, had a game-high 19 points despite sitting on the bench for the entire second quarter in foul trouble.
In her absence, Taylor was a force on the inside as the Redhawks didn’t have an answer for the 6-foot-3 Temple signee. Taylor finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Nine of Taylor’s 17 points came in the third quarter as Spring Valley increased its lead to 43-27 after three.
“We knew their post defense wasn’t so good because they are an all-guard team,” Taylor said. “So, we tried to work it inside and get the job done inside.”
Hill added 11 for Spring Valley and Anaja Matthews had 10.
Taylor Britt led Westwood with 11 points.
W: Drake 5, Lockett 4, Belton 2, Taylor Britt 11, Marshall 4, Davis 4, Tyler 1, Samuel 2. SV: Anaja Matthews 10, Christian Hithe 19, Jones 5, Dominique Hill 11, Shantay Taylor 17, Lewis 1, Wall 2, B. Martinez 2, Davis 2.
Spring Valley 80, Westwood 62
Deangelo Ward poured in a game-high 21 points as the Vikings took over first place in Region 4-4A.
Spring Valley leads Blythewood by a half-game with the second half of region play to go. The win was Vikings coach Perry Dozier’s third straight against his brother Terry, the head coach for the Redhawks.
Ward keyed a strong outside shooting night for the Vikings. The senior guard hit five of the team’s nine 3-pointers, including one at the buzzer of the second quarter as Spring Valley led 42-30 at the break.
Jordan Watson led Westwood with 17 points.
W: Barnes 4, Jones 2, Jordan Watson 17, Robinson 8, Crosby 8, Douglas 12, Shaw 3. SV: T. Bruner 7, Addison 3, Noah Harper 10, Deangelo Ward 21, Grant 4, Kendall Wall 13, J. Bruner 8, Davis 2, Myers 8, Guyton 2, Alicia 2, Jones 2.