Even in the friendly confines of the Bruins Den, Saturday was no “walk on the beach” for the top-ranked Orangeburg-Wilkinson girls’ basketball team.
Orangeburg Sweet 16 Christmas Tournament finalist opponent Beach High School out of Savannah, Ga., is a defending Region 3-AAAAA champion in the Peach State. Despite a size disadvantage, the Lady Bulldogs also brought a physical style of play which put O-W in an early deficit.
The undefeated Bruinettes more than answered the challenge. Getting 15 points each from Nebreshia Hughes and Dejoria Howard and using its defense to impede Beach’s offense over the final three quarters, O-W came away with a 55-40 win to claim the Sweet 16 title for the first time in three years.
“They’re a championship program,” Staley said. “They have a lot of tradition. They’re very well-coached and they have good ball players. So we knew it was going to be a battle, so we weren’t expecting a cake walk or a walk on the beach.”
Howard had nine rebounds and three steals in earning Most Outstanding Player honors. Also scoring in double figures for O-W (11-0) was Vondria Ritter with 11 despite early foul trouble which put her on the bench in the first quarter.
With Ritter absent, the Lady Bulldogs (10-3) took advantage in going up 14-10 at the end of the first quarter. O-W responded with a 7-0 run in the second quarter to regain the lead.
Foul trouble eventually proved detrimental for Beach as the 23 personal fouls it was assessed enabled the Bruinettes to make 20-40 free throws. O-W’s defense also limited the Lady Bulldogs to just two field goals in the second quarter.
A 3-point play by Ritter and layup by Kiera Mitchell to close the first half gave the Bruinettes a 23-20 advantage.
O-W opened the second half with nine unanswered points to take control of the game. Holding Beach to six points for the second straight quarter and settling in offensively with Hughes and Howard, the Bruinettes extended their lead as many as 17 points in the fourth quarter.
“At halftime, we talked about the adjustments we wanted to make,” Staley said. “We said we needed to make the first push because they’re a very good team. We didn’t want them making the first push and gain a lot of confidence and make it even tougher. So we wanted to make the first push, play inside out. We were able to get some good post entries and some good 50-50 balls for put backs and that gave us some success.”
Beach remained resilient right until the final whistle led by guard Ilyn Spann, who scored 12 of her game-high 20 points in the final quarter. Even with the Bruinettes holding a double-digit lead late, head coach Ronald Booker continued to attempt to extend the game by using all of his team’s timeouts.
“We didn’t score well,” Booker said. “I think we may have had a 2-1 (advantage) in terms of shots ... but we didn’t convert. And of course, they outscored us on the line. They went to the line more than we did, but at the same time, they earned those shots. They put them down and when we went to the line, we didn’t convert ours and to me, that was the difference in the game.”
O-W will go for its second holiday championship starting Thursday in the Boo Williams/Ronald Curry Christmas Classic in Hampton, Va.
“We’re going to play against some very tough competition in this tournament,” Staley said. “The Ronald Curry/Boo Williams Classic is a very tough tournament, one of the top in the country and we’re expecting some very good competition.”
Zaria Snipes 5, Nebreshia Hughes 15, Dejoria Howard 15, Kiera Mitchell 2, Vondria Ritter 11, Sade Johnson 1, Sau’kita Glover 6
Ilyn Spann 20, Tiera Brown 2, Erica Hicks 6, Jada Young 8, Ollie Steadman 6, Jade’mone Jones 3
‘SWEET 16’ BOYS FINAL
Savannah 51, Beach (Ga.) 48
Jamal Norman scored 20 points to earn Most Outstanding Player honors for the Sweet 16 as the Blue Jackets upended their crosstown rival.
Jovante Spivey had 14 and Chris Cokley added 11 for Savannah, while Rashad Cummings led the Bulldogs with 14 points.
Savannah 46, Summerville 43
Despite 20 points from Zuri Green, the Lady Green Wave was edged out by the Lady Blue Jackets Saturday.
Kerstan Green led Savannah with 15 points, followed by Kelana Robbins with 13 and Bianca Mathis with 12.
Allendale-Fairfax 56, Orangeburg-Wilkinson 51
A 19-11 fourth-quarter lifted the Tigers to victory over the now-former Sweet 16 champions.
Solomon McCormick scored 18 points and Jamel McMillan added 12 as Allendale-Fairfax broke a 47-47 tie late in the fourth quarter to take the lead for good.
Tashombe Riley led the Bruins with 19 points, followed by Tauree Curry with 17 and John Charley with 11.
Denmark-Olar 43, Midland Valley 28
Jenayah Moore and Ta’Asia Wright each scored 15 points as the fifth-ranked Lady Vikings finished fifth in the tournament.
Northwood Academy 73, North 18
Amber Campbell scored a Sweet 16-high 45 points and Katelyn Powell added 14 to lead the Lady Chargers to a seventh place finish.
Zhane Nimmons led the Lady Eagles with seven points.
Denmark-Olar 61, Military Magnet 53
Kenneth Butler finished with 17 points and Deshawn Moody added 16 to lead the Vikings to fifth place in the Sweet 16.
Northwood Academy 43, North 40
Tayvaughn Major had 12 points and Falcon Stewart scored 11 to help the Chargers finish a “school sweep” of North and place seventh in the tournament.
Anore Black led the Eagles with 10 points and Juay Strobert added nine.
‘SWEET 16’ ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAMS
Kirstam Green (Savannah), Ilyn Spann (Beach), Nabreshia Hughes (Orangeburg-Wilkinson), Amber Campbell (Northwood Academy), Zuri Green (Summerville), Ta’Asia Wright (Denmark-Olar), Alexis Bates (Midland Valley) and Zhane Nimmons (North)
MOST OUTSTANDING GIRLS’ PLAYER: Dejoria Howard (Orangeburg-Wilkinson)
Juan Strobert (North), Tayvaughn Major (Northwood Academy), Kenneth Butler (Denmark-Olar), Scott Hollis (Military Magnet), Tauree Curry (Orangeburg-Wilkinson), Jahnari Devoe (Allendale-Fairfax), Jovante Spivey (Savannah) and Rashad Cummings (Beach)
MOST OUTSTANDING BOYS’ PLAYER: Jamal Norman (Savannah)
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