AIKEN - It was a banner night for Hephzibah.
Both the Rebels girls and boys teams advanced to the championship game of the Twin States Holiday Invitational with victories over Westside, 55-45, and Lincoln County, 53-46, respectively, at Aiken High School on Friday.
Joanne Aluka scored 14 points and grabbed 13 rebounds as Hephzibah pulled away from Westside in the opening game of the tournament. The Hephzibah boys snapped a nine-game losing streak by overcoming 29 points from Lincoln County guard Antonio Henderson.
Henderson scored 20 of his 29 points in the first half.
Hephzibah's girls (10-2) will meet the winner of the late game between Richland Northeast and Aiken for the girls championship today at 7 p.m. Aiken defeated Hephzibah, 36-33, in last year's championship game.
The survivor of the Aiken-Silver Bluff game will meet Hephzibah (2-9) for the boys title at 8:30 p.m.
Westside (5-2) will meet the loser of the Aiken-Richland Northeast girls contest for third place at 4 p.m. Lincoln County (1-1) will be in the boys third place game at 5:30 p.m.
Brandi Hicks scored all 13 of her points in the second period as Hephzibah outscored Westside 25-11 in the second quarter to take a 32-22 lead into intermission.
Hicks drilled three 3-pointers and dished out three of her five assists in the period. Hephzibah finished the half with a 10-0 run as Aluka and Hicks scored four points apiece.
"Brandi (Hicks) could be an All-Star," Hephzibah coach Wendell Lofton said of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte-signee. "But sometimes she'll lay off and let the other girls get involved. That's playing team ball. She's so unselfish with the ball; sometimes, I wish she would just penetrate and take over. I worry at the next level that those girls might try to take advantage of her (unselfishness). She really needs to learn how to go off.'
Westside (5-2) countered the Hicks-led Hephzibah run with a 10-0 run at the start of the third period to tie the game at 32-32 with 3:47 remaining. Hephzibah took the lead for good, 39-37, on two free throws by Shomika Sheriffe with 1:26 left in the third.
"We didn't make our foul shots," Patriots coach Bill Richey said. "We just didn't finish like we should have. Hephzibah is a tremendous team and we can take something positive out of this in that we hung tough with them to the end. This is a good tournament for us."
Brandi Robertson paced Westside with a game-high 14 points and Vicki Page added 12.
Rebel boys coach Kevin Kenny was happy to get a win. Period.
"We needed this win," Kenny said. "We only have three experienced players and we've played some tough teams in Southwest (Macon), Josey, Richmond Academy and Clarke Central. Hopefully, this will get us ready for the sub-region in January and February."
LINCOLN COUNTY (46)- Antonio Henderson 29, Patrick Douglas 6, Troy Brown 4, Ken Henderson 1, Dant Danner 6. Totals 19 6-15 46.
HEPHZIBAH (53)- Jimmy Clay 5, Jerrian Sanders 5, Anthony Alston 9, James Harris 16, Nick Henderson 7, Brandon Boddie 7, Deshawn Mitchell 2, Sean Faison. Totals 22 7-16 53.
Lincoln County14 9 13 10- 46
Hephzibah12 14 16 11- 53
3-point goals: Henderson 2, Clay, Harris. Records: Lincoln County 1-1, Hephzibah 2-9. Next: Lincoln County vs. Silver Bluff-Aiken loser, 5:30 p.m. today, Aiken High School. Hephzibah vs. Silver Bluff-Aiken winner, 8:30 p.m., today, Aiken High School.
WESTSIDE (45)- Brandi Robertson 15, Vicki Page 12, Katie Lawrence 5, Lisa Thacker 2, Brandi Wright 2, Angela Griffin 9. Totals 19 3-12 45.
HEPZIBAH (55)- Brandi Hicks 13, Joanne Aluka 14, LeCoe Willingham 10, Deyanna Little 4, Shontae Bethel 6, April Clyburn 4, Jennifer East 2, Shomika Sheriffe 2. Totals 21 10-16 55.
Westside11 11 15 8- 45
HephzibahN7 25 N9 14- 55
3-point goals: Robertson 3, Lawrence, Hicks 3. Records: Westside 5-2, Hephzibah 10-2. Next: Westside vs. Richland Northeast-Aiken loser, today, 4 p.m., Aiken High School. Hephzibah vs. Richland Northeast-Aiken winner, today, Aiken Holiday Tournament finals, Aiken High School, 7 p.m.