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Blazers tap into Yoda mindset on way to region title game

Ridge View’s Simone Johnson Photo by Mike Maddock

Ridge View’s Simone Johnson Photo by Mike Maddock

In the words of the great Jedi Master Yoda, “Do or do not. There is no try.”

Ridge View head coach Terrence Gibson uses a familiar philosophy when he characterizes his own team.

“You can say what you want to be, but you aren’t that until you do it,” Gibson said. “You either do it or you don’t, but you aren’t that until you do it.”

For Gibson, the ‘it’ for his team is winning Region 5-4A. Currently, the Blazers are at the top of the region standings at 17-8 overall and 9-0 in region play.

Ridge View’s success is a continuation of how the Blazers ended the 2022-2023 season despite starting with a 4-10 record.

The Blazers turned their season around going 7-3 in the region. Ridge View finished with a No. 3 seed and was forced to go on the road during the playoffs. That’s when they caught a lot of people’s attention. Upset wins over Lucy Beckham and South Florence sent Ridge View to the 4A quarterfinals, where its season ended at the hands of A.C. Flora. The Blazers have been able to carry the momentum over to the 2023-2024 season.

“It helped with our confidence,” Gibson said. “It impacted our offseason workouts. We understood better what we had to do. We have a goal set, and now it’s obtainable. We see the light.”

A team predominately filled with juniors and seniors has appeared to take that next step. Ridge View finished its nonregion slate with an 8-7 record. The improvement continued with wins over A.C. Flora and Westwood over the first half of region play.

“It has continued helping us build confidence,” Gibson said. “I told the girls this is like a game. Now we are in the third and fourth quarters. This is when we have to be the most disciplined and most team-ready.”

So far, Ridge View has stayed the course in the second half with wins over Lugoff-Elgin, Irmo, and again with Westwood.

Destiny Drakeford, Lucia Bailey, Sian Banks, and Simone Johnson have led the Blazers to this point.

Now with one game remaining, the biggest test remains, a trip to A.C. Flora for the region title.

“We have to start with a good practice then go on to the next day,” Gibson said. “We have to remember our offensive and defensive principals. We have to remember what we are doing as a team and build from there, so when we get to the game we aren’t doing anything new. We are doing something we have done the whole year.”

The first battle between the two teams was a tight affair, with the Blazers pulling out a two-point win. To this point, Ridge View’s offense is averaging 48.7 points per game, while its defense is holding opponents to an average of 43.4 points per game. The Falcons scored 43 on January 23.

A.C. Flora is averaging 54.6 points per game on offense and holding opponents to an average of 40.3 points per game.

Gibson understands the importance of the game against the Falcons. As a No. 1 seed, a team can host up to the semifinals. A No. 2 seed is only guaranteed one home playoff game. During Gibson’s tenure at Ridge View, the Blazers have always gone on the road during the quarterfinal round.

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