Westwood girls basketball had been here before and gotten ever so close. But for some reason, some way, they always were denied.
The Redhawks were making their fourth semifinal appearance in the last six years and they had yet to win one. That is until Friday at the Florence Center. Jessica Woods scored 14 points to lead three players in double figures as Westwood defeated region foe AC Flora for the third time this season, this one an ever so important 52-37 victory.
“They stayed the course because they knew that they were having a special year and that this year could be the that we possibly, finally, get the monkey off our back and get an opportunity to play for a state championship,” Westwood coach Gregory Bauldrick said. ‘We’re just so proud of them. Our work is not done yet.”
It’s the schools first state championship appearance of any kind. But awaiting Westwood next week in the Class 4A state finals will be a familiar foe that has brought them heartache in the past. The Redhawks (26-4) will play North Augusta, a 58-50 winner over Wade Hampton in the other semifinal, on Thursday at 5 p.m. at USC-Aiken.
“We don’t need an introduction to North Augusta, I don’t think anyone in the state does,” Bauldrick said. “We look forward to the challenge. They have an excellent program. They have the lineage, but we’ll bring our hearts and play to the very best of our abilities and see what happens.”
Makiah Thompson and Raven Johnson each added 11 points for Westwood.
Westwood had already defeated AC Flora (20-10) twice in the regular season. They won the first meeting by 16 points and the second one by nine.
The strategy was to jump out to a quick lead and try to keep the Falcons on their heels. It worked to perfection.
Westwood opened the game on a 9-0 spurt and after AC Flora trimmed the lead to six points, responded with another 14-0 run that helped them build a 25-11 lead at the half.
“That was critical. Like a boxer, we always want to throw the jab and when the jab connects, we want to throw the right hand,” Bauldrick said. “That allowed us some wiggle room.”
And they did need the wiggle room. Terriana Gray and Trinity Delaney caught fire in the third quarter and pulled AC Flora within 10 points. They kept the margin right around that margin but could never get the lead back to single digits.
The final dagger came when the Falcons missed a close layup that would have cut the margin to eight points and Westwood responded with a field goal by Destiny Omeire.
AC Flora was making just its second semifinal appearance and first since 2007. Gray finished with 16 points and Delaney added nine.
Westwood finished plays and they have a lot. This is their fourth time in six years. That’s where you want to get too, to get to their level. That experience showed tonight,” AC Flora coach Jacob Thompson said.
“The real big thing for our program, this is a stepping-stone. We lose six seniors, two who played really big minutes, but those young ones and those coming back knows what it takes.”
W – Jessica Woods 14, Makiah Thompson 11, Raven Johnson 11, Korletta Daniels 6, Destiny Omeire 4, Miracle Branch 2, Thanna Davis 2, Si’Niya Curry 2. ACF – Terriana Gray 16, Trinity Delaney 9, Skylar McCray 5, Jaclyn Wright-Thompson 5, Emory Curnell 2.
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