GRANITEVILLE — The Silver Bluff Bulldogs rebounded from a poor shooting night in a semifinal loss Friday with a 73-53 win over Wagener-Salley on Saturday afternoon in the consolation game of the Aiken County Challenge.
“Obviously we would have liked to win the whole thing,” Silver Bluff head coach Robbie McKenzie said of claiming third place. “But it does mean a lot.”
Silver Bluff’s (6-5) guard-oriented offense discovered its shooting touch against the War Eagles, but not right away. Wagener-Salley (6-7) took an early 6-3 lead that prompted McKenzie to call a timeout. The Bulldogs broke the huddle and scored 10 straight, leaving the War Eagles in their rearview mirror.
Despite the quick start, Wagener-Salley was unable to get into much of a rhythm offensively until the game was out of reach. The War Eagles scored 21 points in the fourth quarter but never got within five after Silver Bluff’s early spurt.
All-Tournament selection Donte Wright scored a game-high 26 points, draining four 3-pointers, to lead the Bulldogs. Jaylen Lawrence joined him in double figures with 15. In all, 10 different Bulldogs scored in the game. McKenzie took advantage of his team’s depth, frequently sending in multiple substitutions and sometimes switching out all five players on the court.
“With it being a Christmas tournament, I’ve always had the philosophy that, during the course of three games, I want to make sure everybody gets in the game and sees significant time,” McKenzie said.
Up 33-20 at halftime, Silver Bluff put the game out of reach with an 8-0 run to open the third quarter. The 21-point advantage was the Bulldogs’ biggest of the game
All-Tournament selection RJ Tyler paced Wagener-Salley with 24 points. Tyler was a force for the War Eagles throughout the tournament, scoring an average of 18.7 points per game. Kyiian Miller and Malcolm Stroman each chipped in eight in the losing effort.
Tyler was a strong presence inside all game long for the War Eagles despite gritty efforts from Silver Bluff’s Gyasi Yeldell and Nick Cummings. Yeldell, a bruiser, fought hard for rebounds in the paint while Cummings lived above the rim, rising above opponents to crash the boards. Each returned to the lineup after early-season injuries, giving Silver Bluff depth inside.
“It’s huge having them back in the mix,” McKenzie said. “I think we’ve got a pretty good eight- or nine-guy rotation right now.”
The Bulldogs had a decided advantage at the free throw and 3-point lines. Silver Bluff made 11 free throws, with Wright a perfect 8-8 from the stripe, compared to three for Wagener-Salley. As a team, the Bulldogs drained 10 triples while not allowing the War Eagles to score from beyond the arc.
“I thought we played pretty well,” McKenzie said. “It’s late December and we’re still growing as a team, still trying to get better.”
WS 12 8 12 21 — 53
SB 20 13 15 25 — 73
Wagener-Salley (6-7)—RJ Tyler 11 2-3 24, Kyiian Miller 4 0-0 8, Malcolm Stroman 4 0-0 8, Gregg Hicks 3 0-0 6, Kavon Mitchell 3 0-1 6, Justin Gray 0 1-2 1. Totals 25 3-6 53.
Silver Bluff (6-5)—Donte Wright 7 8-8 26, Jaylen Lawrence 6 0-0 15, Brian Hickson 2 1-1 6, Devyn Tyler 3 0-0 6, Dontay Ingram 2 0-0 5, Nick Cummings 2 0-0 4, Greg Dunbar 1 1-2 3, Carl Smith 1 0-0 3, Gyasi Yeldell 1 1-2 3, Jalen Jackson 1 0-0 2. Totals 26 11-13 73.
3-pointers: Wright (4), Lawrence (3), Dunbar, Ingram, Smith.