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The Westwood Redhawks led the North Augusta Yellow Jackets 13-8 after the first quarter of the 4A girls State Championship game in Aiken. However, from that point, North Augusta outscored Westwood 34-16 to win 42-29 and claim the championship Thursday, March 2.
“We started the game the way we wanted,” Westwood head coach Gregory Bauldrick said. “Things settled down in the second quarter and we got in a hurry for unknown reasons. We were still in a good position at the half. In the third quarter, they sped us up. We knew it was going to be a tough game in terms of who wanted it more. They certainly played harder at that time. It got us uncomfortable. The wheels came off.”
North Augusta got on the board first with a layup from Jadah O’Bryant. Westwood responded with a jumper from Korletta Daniels. Makiah Thompson and Jessica Woods each knocked down a 3-pointer and Raven Johnson made one of two free throws to give the Redhawks a 9-2 lead. A bankshot from P’eris Smith ended the run and shrunk the Yellow Jackets’ deficit to 9-4. Johnson responded with a layup, but North Augusta countered with a bucket from Smith and two free throws from Celena Grant to close the gap to 11-8. Woods converted a pair of free throws to extend the Westwood lead to 13-8 at the end of the first quarter.
“This was her only goal for high school, the state championship,” Bauldrick said of Woods. “She’s done everything I asked her to do and more. Her tank was empty tonight. She gave it everything she had. I think she’s at a point where, even though she’s disappointed with tonight’s outcome, she can turn the page and have no regrets when she wakes up tomorrow morning. Jessica has just been phenomenal.”
The second quarter became a defensive affair as the two teams combined for six points. North Augusta got a jumper and free throw from Ansley Gartrell and a layup from Ashley Walker. Westwood got a free throw from Woods to lead 14-13 at halftime.
“We knew defensively we would be able to compete,” Bauldrick said. “I think where we misfired was on the offensive end of the floor. We were out of sync. We couldn’t get into the things we wanted. When we did we missed those opportunities.”
The Yellow Jackets were able to find their offensive flow in the third quarter. After Westwood’s Destiny Omeire hit a floater to extend the Redhawks’ lead to 16-13, North Augusta countered with two free throws from Grant, two layups from Smith, and a 3-pointer from Gartrell to lead 22-16. Woods tried to keep Westwood in the game with a jumper to shrink the gap to 22-18. However, the Yellow Jackets responded with 3-pointers from Grant and O’Bryant, a free throw from Smith, and two layups from Kenedi Wright to lead 33-20 at the end of the third quarter.
Westwood got a jumper and layup from Johnson in the fourth quarter. Daniels added a bucket and one, and Woods chipped in a bankshot. North Augusta countered with two layups and a pair of free throws from Smith, a jumper from Grant, and a free throw from Gartrell to set the final score.
Westwood finishes the year with a 26-5 record.
“This has been a ride that has been tremendous,” Bauldrick said. “The experience and opportunity have been great. We have a lot of young players in our JV program that are looking forward to their opportunity on the varsity level. The future is still bright and that group will be ready to spread their wings and soar as well.”
North Augusta: P’eris Smith 13 points, 9 rebounds, 1 steal and 1 assist; Celena Grant 9 points, 12 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 assist, and 1 block; Ansley Gartrell 9 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 blocks; Jadah O’Bryant 5 points; 4 steals, 2 rebounds, and 2 assists; Kenedi Wright 4 points, 4 steals, and 1 rebounds; and Ashley Walker 2 points, 5 rebounds, and 1 block..
Westwood: Jessica Woods 10 points, 7 rebounds, 2 steals, and 1 assist; Raven Johnson 9 points, 11 rebounds, 4 blocks, and 2 steals; Korletta Daniels 5 points, 2 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block, and 1 assist; Makiah Thompson 3 points, 2 rebounds, 2 steals, and 1 assist; and Destiny Omeire 2 points, 5 rebounds, 2 steals, and 1 assist.
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