Blythewood had less than a day to prepare for its first matchup with Conway earlier this season.
With two days to get ready for the rematch, the Bengals used that time to their advantage and it showed as they defeated the Tigers 71-58 on Tuesday in the third round of the Class 5A playoffs.
Blythewood advances to the Class 5A Lower State championship and faces Irmo at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday at the Florence Civic Center. It will be the second straight year the Bengals and Yellow Jackets are playing in the lower state championship and is third meeting this season between the two Region 5-5A foes.
Blythewood has won four straight over Irmo, including last year’s Lower State title game.
“We had a chance to prep for them. When we played them in the Christmas tournament, we didn’t have a chance to do that,” Blythewood coach Zeke Washington said. “The kids did a good job and paid attention in film session and were able to pick up some tendencies.”
Blythewood defeated Conway, 63-60 in the championship of the Phenom Hoops tournament Dec. 30. But getting ready for that game, there was no film work or a detailed game plan. The Bengals were just worried about playing a third game in three days.
The second time around, the Bengals hit the film room, made adjustments and did a better job containing Class 5A Player of Year and Providence signee Jimmy Nichols, who finished with just seven points and didn’t have a field goal in the second half. Blythewood 6-foot-9 forward Robert Braswell also did a good job keeping the Tigers off the boards.
Braswell finished with 13 rebounds to go with his 14 points and 4 blocks.
“Robert knew he had to answer the challenge. Nichols is another big time player and Robert took it personally and played the best he could,” Washington said.
Offensively, Tre Jackson ignited the Bengals’ offense especially in the first half. The junior scored 16 of his game-high 26 points in the first two quarters. He hit back-to-back 3-pointers with less than two minutes left in the second quarter as the Bengals led 32-25 at halftime.
The Bengals started third quarter on a 7-0 run and closed it strong as Jackson scored five in a row in the final minute to give Blythewood a 51-37 lead.
“That is the plan always, put the foot in them and don’t let them come back,” Jackson said. “We got to watch film on them this time and see their tendencies and that really just helped us especially on defense.”
Jonathan Breeland added 15 for the Bengals.
Darren Grainger scored 19 to lead the Tigers, who finished with a 21-4 record. Going into the playoffs, Conway hadn’t won a playoff game since the 1993-94 season.
C: Grainger 19, Juwan Moody 6, Cooper 3, Nichols 7, Steele 2, Graves 2, Jaylen Moody 10. B: Jackson 26, Breeland 15, Hambrick 2, Thompson 6, Williams 2, Braswell 14, Heatley 6.