The “Sweet 16” left a sour opinion of the Orangeburg-Wilkinson boys’ basketball team.

After a poor showing in their holiday tournament, the Bruins had a sub-.500 record and ranked outside the S.C. Basketball Coaches Association’s Top 10 poll for Class 3-A.

A new year has offered a brand new lease on life for the now-surging O-W boys. Tuesday’s 67-53 win over James Island was the sixth straight win and eight out of the last nine for the Region 7-AAAA leading Bruins.

Preseason SCBCA Top Five selection Tashombe Riley scored 21 points and fellow senior Tauree Riley added 16 for O-W (12-8, 5-0), which rebounded from a slow start to outscore the Trojans (7-11, 3-2) 32-21 in the second half.

“Our philosophy the whole season has been to prepare for the region and as a coaching staff, we thought the best way to do that would be to schedule tougher competition,” O-W head coach Tracey Gamble said. “We were able to see that in the non-region schedule. We were able to see that in our tournament and also the other Christmas tournament that we went to. And although our record was less than favorable, we felt that the competition would be preparing us for where we wanted to go and where we wanted to be at region time. We’ve still got a lot of work to do, but they showed great signs of making some progress tonight.” The Bruins found themselves in an early hole which started right before the scheduled opening tip. A late-arriving official home game book to the scorer’s table resulted in a technical foul on O-W.

The Trojans made both free throws and promptly added two more field goals to take a 6-0 advantage. Led by Brady Schuck, who scored 10 of his co-team high 12 points in the first quarter, James Island held a 17-15 advantage.

O-W rallied behind the scoring of Riley and their defensive pressure which slowed down the Trojans. It would finally surpass James Island in the second with three consecutive 3-pointers, two by Riley, to go up 29-23.

Riley finished the first half with 14 points to give O-W a 35-31 advantage entering the lockerroom.

“We try to play as a team,” he said. “We just keep coming to practice and working hard.”

The Bruins took control of the game in the third quarter sparked by an offensive spurt by Curry. He connected on back-to-back 3-pointers from NBA range for six of his 10 third-quarter points to put O-W up 47-37 at the 3:55 mark of the period.

An 8-2 run concluded the third quarter for the Bruins, highlighted by a hustle play on defense by Tyler Davis. With James Island’s James Hamilton headed for a fastbreak layup, Davis managed to chase him down and make a leaping block before the ball could bounce off the backboard.

O-W quickly transitioned the basketball upcourt where Messiah Rice was open for a layup to make it 57-42.

“We want to keep the game close in the first half and win it in the second half,” Gamble said. “We want to be the team to make the push in the third quarter. The third quarter’s been good to us. We’re not always going to be able to dig holes and work our way out. But we feel as though if we can keep the game close, we can put it away in the second half.”

The lead reached as high as 18 points for O-W in the fourth quarter. As the foul totals increased for both teams, the final minutes were spent mostly at the foul line before Riley closed out the scoring with a two-handed slam dunk.

Having completed a first run through Region 7-AAA unscathed, the Bruins start the second run this Friday at Hanahan.

“It’s just a ranking. It’s preseason,” said Curry about the polls. “We’ve just got to dig deep. The teams that stay in the playoffs longer are the ones that stay together and pick up team chemistry.”

ORANGEBURG-WILKINSON (67)

Germaine Johnson 4, Tauree Curry 16, John Charley 3, Richard Green 2, Tashombe Riley 21, Messiah Rice 7, Lorenzo Riley 2, Tyler Davis 2

JAMES ISLAND (53)

Robert Cole 5, Brady Schuck 12, Davon Fludd 11, Trevon Grant 12, Immanuel Smalls 8, De’Andre Streat 4, Greg Bolus 1

GIRLS BASKETBALL

Orangeburg-Wilkinson 66, James Island 25

It was a simple strategy employed Tuesday by the top-ranked and Region 7-AAA-leading Orangeburg-Wilkinson girls’ basketball team.

Give the ball to junior center Vondria Ritter and she will take care of the rest.

The 6-0 Bruinette more than capitalized off her height advantage against the Lady Trojans with a career performance. Ritter not only outscored the entire James Island roster with 28 points, but also dominated the boards with 15 rebounds and added three blocked shots in the Region 7-AAA rout.

She was the only player in the double figures for either team as teammates Nabresha Hughes finished with nine points and Kiera Mitchell added six. Brittany Maull led James Island with eight points and Skyy Williams added seven.

O-W (18-1, 5-0) led from start to finish as it jumped out to a 19-5 advantage in the first quarter, 14 coming from Ritter. It continued over the final three quarters as the Lady Trojans had no answer for the Bruinettes’ size advantage.

ORANGEBURG-WILKINSON (66)

Vondria Ritter 28, Nabresha Hughes 9, Kiera Mitchell 7, Amari Grevious 2, Jasmine Moore 3, Shay Jackson 6, Sade Johnson 6, Saukita Glover 4, JaQuanne Murray 4

JAMES ISLAND (25)

Skyy Williams 7, Sara Wright 6, Brittany Maull 8, Sierra Williams 1, McKenzie Tillman 1, Brett Masneri 2

Contact the writer: tgrant@timesanddemocrat.com or by calling (803) 533-5547. Follow Grant on Twitter@TandDSports.

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