Aiken 77, Silver BLuff 61


PETTICOAT JUNCTION — In its season opener, the Aiken High School boys’ basketball team looked out of sorts for the start of Tuesday’s game at Silver Bluff. The Hornets didn’t make a shot from the field until less than 3 minutes remained in the first quarter, in which they only scored seven points. Early in the second quarter, they were down by 13 points and looked to be in real trouble.

That’s when Shawn Moore took over.

The senior swingman got the message after an early benching and scored 14 points in the second quarter, as Aiken rallied. He added 20 points in the second half, finishing the game with 37 overall as the Hornets dominated the Bulldogs after intermission and cruised to a 77-61 victory.

“I sat him in the first quarter, when he didn’t have a basket,” Aiken head coach Tony Harrell said of Moore, who was unstoppable after taking the early seat. He connected from outside, hitting five 3-pointers, and was dynamic slashing to the basket and on the break. His fine play sparked and created opportunities for his teammates. “I’m proud of how he finished. He’s a very good ball player.”

Moore got going in transition. He started off by pulling defensive rebounds and igniting fast breaks. He also was a finisher in the transition game, leaking ahead of the pack when his teammates forced a turnover.

“He was unbelievable,” said Silver Bluff head coach Robbie McKenzie. “He was on fire in the second and third quarter. He was making shots and he makes them go.”

They forced a lot of them in the second and third quarter, when the Bulldogs’ (0-1) initial burst of energy ran out and the Hornets outscored them 55-32.

Because of the great run Silver Bluff’s football team had, the basketball team was able to run just one full-squad practice before Tuesday’s opener. Many of the players weren’t in condition to play such a busy, up-tempo game and ran out of gas.

“Conditioning wise, we were just getting beat,” said McKenzie, who was positive in spite of the loss. “We did a lot of practice coaching in the game. It’s not an excuse, we had great intensity and we’re going to play hard. We’re going to keep working and I know we can compete.”

The Bulldogs style is to play run and gun, and it was clicking early. They were led by the strong play of Donte Wright and Jaylen Lawrence, who combined for 22 points in the first half. When they had an opening, they were quick to pull the trigger, hitting five 3-pointers in the opening half.

They were also strong attacking the rim, and Wright finished with a team-high 21 points while Lawrence totaled 16.

“We weathered the storm early,” Harrell said. “Silver Bluff came out playing fantastic, but we never hung our heads. … We were in just a little better shape. They have a good club, but we could see them getting tired midway through the second so we extended the pressure and we took over the game after the half.”

The Hornets had an edge in conditioning and numbers. Harrell went deep into his bench looking for successful lineup combinations and ended up using a dozen players in the victory, with eight of them scoring. Ryan McKie was second on the team with 11 points, followed by Deon Hicks’ 10. It was Hicks’ first game in more than a year, after missing all of last season while recovering from Leukemia. He hit a pair of 3-pointers and nearly brought the gym to its feet with a dunk that rimmed out.

“He played well and he missed all of last year,” Harrell said. “He played good, but it’s just a blessing to have him playing.”

Aiken will return to action on Thursday, when it plays its home opener against Spring Valley. Silver Bluff will go for its first win on Friday when it plays at Midland Valley.

AIK 7 28 27 15 – 77

SB 17 21 11 12 – 61

Aiken (1-0)—Megal Hill 2 0-2 4, Shawn Moore 14 4-4 37, Jordan Habersham 1 0-0 2, Ryan McKie 4 3-5 11, Deon Hicks 3 2-2 10, John Besson 1 0-0 2, Stacy Toole 2 2-3 6, Jaylen Croft 1 2-2 5. Totals: 28 13-18 77.

3-Pointers: Moore (5), Hicks (2), Croft.

Silver Bluff (0-1)—Devyn Tyler 2 1-1 6, Jalen Jackson 1 2-2 5, Jaylen Lawrence 6 1-2 16, Greg Dunbar 1 0-0 2, Nick Cummings 3 1-3 7, Jalen Douse 2 0-0 4, Donte Wright 8 1-3 21. Totals: 23 6-11 61.

3-Pointers: Wright (4), Lawrence (3), Jackson, Tyler.

Aiken Girls 51, Silver Bluff 18

PETTICOAT JUNCTION — Using a smothering defense and opportunistic scoring, the Aiken High School girls’ basketball team dominated Silver Bluff, which was playing its season opener. The Hornets (2-1) shut out the Bulldogs (0-1) in the first quarter and put the game out of reach with an 18-0 lead after 8 minutes.

“We were very active and able to keep them from setting up in the half court,” Aiken head coach Aubrey Pompey said of his team, which used full-court pressure and trapping zones to dominate Silver Bluff. “We forced them to make some decisions and we were able to get in the passing lanes. It was a good tempo for us.”

The disruptive defense usually led to instant offense for the Hornets, as they forced a number of turnovers that resulted in easy baskets in transition. Even when the Bulldogs were able to break the press, they struggled in half-court sets. Conversely, Aiken was moving well and getting the ball to open players for high-percentage shots. Erin Gilmore led all players with 12 points and was one of nine Hornets to score in the contest.

“We had good balance,” Pompey said of his squad, which got a combined 24 points from Alexis Odom, Hanna Williams and Monique Tyler. “We were able to move the ball around and have a threat to score at every position.”

Aiken will need to get even more production when it returns to action on Thursday. It will play host to perennial powerhouse Spring Valley, while the Bulldogs – who were led by Roxanna Cook’s 11 points – will play their next game on Friday at Midland Valley.

AIK 18 12 17 4 – 51

SB 0 7 4 7 – 18

Aiken (2-1)—Erin Gilmore 5 2-2 12, Kelsee Sapp 1 0-2 2, Hanna Williams 3 0-0 8, Rebekah Muir 1 1-4 3, Jay Graham 3 0-0 6, Monique Tyler 2 3-6 7, Kim Vinson 1 0-0 2, Autrianna Ingram 1 0-0 2, Alexis Odom 4 1-2 9. Totals: 21 7-16 51.

3-Pointers: Williams (2).

Silver Bluff (0-1)—Ashanti Brown 1 1-4 3, Jasmine Judge 0 2-4 2, Estabana Key-Crawford 0 0-2 0, Roxanna Cook 4 3-6 11, Keiana Clemons 1 0-0 2. Totals: 6 6-16 18.

Noah Feit is the sports editor for the Aiken Standard and has been a professional journalist for more than a dozen years after graduating from Syracuse University.