GRANITEVILLE — Mark Snelgrove wasn’t pleased. The Midland Valley High School boys’ basketball coach was unhappy with the way his team was playing defense in the first half of Friday’s game against South Aiken.

“In the first half, we played poor defense. Our goal is to keep teams under 50 points a game,” said Snelgrove, whose team surrendered 30 to the Thoroughbreds after two quarters. “We were leaving the backside open and they were able to gut us through the middle.”

Following halftime, the Mustangs executed their gameplan on defense. They forced the T-Breds into one turnover after another and made sure any shot the visitors took was heavily contested. The resurgent effort paid off as Midland Valley only surrendered 19 points in the game’s final 16 minutes to keep South Aiken at less than 50 points, as it rallied for a 57-49 win.

“We weren’t patient enough and didn’t react well,” T-Breds’ head coach Drew Jernigan said of his team’s performance in the second half. “We had too many turnovers that led to easy buckets for them. We’ve got to do better.”

In the first half, South Aiken (2-3) was doing a good job of moving the ball from side to side at the top of the arc, and then passing to the weakside of the defense to an open man in the paint. More often than not, these passes found T-Bred players momentarily open for good looks at the basket. The Mustangs (6-2) cranked up the pressure on the ball handlers in the second half and neutralized the T-Breds’ attack.

“We played defense the way its supposed to be played in the second half,” Snelgrove said.

Midland Valley also improved its offensive production after intermission. In a game that was relatively close most of the way, the Mustangs used an 8-0 run midway through the third quarter to take the lead. Many of the baskets came in transition, after Midland Valley forced turnovers in half-court defensive sets. Kameron Brown led the way for the Mustangs with 17 points.

“Kameron is starting to come on,” Snelgrove said of the player he’s had to encourage to shoot more. “He’s got the best shot on the team.”

Javoddis Coach added 13 points for Midland Valley while Latrell Lee contributed 10 more. Jordan Dingle scored a game-best 18 points for South Aiken, hitting back-to-back 3-pointers midway through the fourth quarter to spark a run that trimmed an 11-point deficit down to three. But the T-Breds didn’t get any closer, as Snelgrove adjusted his defense again. He switched to a box-and-1 zone to take the ball out of Dingle’s hands.

“I was going to make sure somebody beats us other than him,” Snelgrove reasoned.

The move paid off as South Aiken struggled to get any more good shots off with Dingle hounded. When Jaquan Hall hit a layup after a scramble for a loose ball that was the backbreaker clinching Midland Valley the victory.

“We got outplayed and outworked,” Jernigan said. “It was a total team loss. We weren’t good enough tonight, Midland Valley was the better team.”

The win was the third consecutive at home for the Mustangs, who will go for a perfect start on the home hardwood on Tuesday when they host White Knoll. South Aiken will try to rebound when it goes on the road to play Airport the same day.

SA 15 15 11 8 – 49

MV 12 14 20 11 – 57

South Aiken (2-3)—Jordan Dingle 7 0-0 18, Rock Kirkland 2 0-0 4, Richard Davis 1 0-0 3, Taijha Turner 4 0-2 8, Jordan Scott 2 0-0 4, Austin Kyles 2 2-2 6, Abram Elam 2 0-2 4, Latrell Brown 1 0-0 2. Totals: 21 2-6 49.

3-Pointers: Dingle (4), Davis.

Midland Valley (6-2)—Daniel Carr 1 2-3 4, Jaquan Hall 2 0-1 4, Latrell Lee 4 0-0 10, Jaysen Jones 2 0-0 4, Kameron Brown 6 3-4 17, Djuan Green 2 1-2 5, Javoddis Coach 6 1-2 13. Totals: 23 7-12 57.

3-Pointers: Lee (2), Brown (2).

South Aiken girls 69, Midland Valley 35

GRANITEVILLE — Midway through the first quarter of Friday’s game, the girls teams from South Aiken and Midland Valley were locked in a low-scoring contest. The Lady Mustangs were able to trim their deficit to a single point forcing Thoroughbreds’ coach Erin Brinkley to call a timeout. Her team heeded her instructions as it closed the first quarter on a 14-0 run that put the game out of reach before South Aiken ultimately prevailed 69-35.

“We played okay, Kyasia (Youmans) played well. She played great defense that led to a lot of offensive opportunities,” Brinkley said of her star guard, who led the game 26 points, several of them coming on run outs after the T-Breds forced a turnover. “We try to run a lot of different defenses and different lineups to see what rotations work the best.”

The man-to-man defense seemed to work the best against Midland Valley (1-3), which struggled to find a rhythm offensively. The Lady Mustangs were held to 11 points in the first half, and by the time they began to execute more efficiently in the third quarter, the score was already out of reach. Alexis Bates led the home team with 17 points, but most of her teammates struggled against the various South Aiken (2-1) defenses. Midland Valley will return to action on Tuesday against White Knoll.

If it wasn’t for its transition scoring, the T-Breds’ point total would have been lower because of their own struggles in half-court sets. But they displayed good depth and were able overpower the Lady Mustangs as nine different players scored, with Morgan Fair adding 10 points.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do before we get to region,” said Brinkley, who will take her team on the road to play Airport on Tuesday. “We need to work on the little things. The little things are the big difference between winning and losing in region.”

SA 18 11 23 17 – 69

MV 3 8 12 12 — 35

South Aiken (2-1)—Jessica Schiffer 3 0-0 6, Brooke Hutto 2 0-0 6, Kyasia Youmans 11 3-6 26, MaKenzie Smith 3 2-4 8, Morgan Fair 2 6-7 10, Bree Parks 1 0-0 2, Emily Koger 3 0-0 7, Randi Damron 0 2-2 2, Courtney Farrell 1 0-0 2, Keisha Whitaker 0 0-1 0. Totals: 26 13-20 69.

3-Pointers: Hutto (2), Youmans, Koger.

Midland Valley (1-3)—Amber Abney 1 2-3 4, Tiana Chandler 2 1-2 5, Brittany Campbell 2 0-0 4, Erin Cunningham 1 0-1 2, Gracie Gunter 1 1-4 3, Alexis Bates 4 9-14 17, Jaleisha Ellison 0 0-1 0. Totals: 11 13-25 35.

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.