When Dutch Fork’s Morgan Williams coaxed in a difficult layup as the first half buzzer sounded to give the Silver Foxes an 18-point lead, it appeared as though the home-standing Aiken Hornets were the next in a long line of Dutch Fork’s blowout victims.

Instead, the Hornets fought back. A wild barrage of 3-pointers in the second half brought Aiken within two points with under a minute to play and on the verge of shocking the Dutch Fork buzz saw. The Silver Foxes ultimately came through at the free throw line, narrowly escaping with a 51-46 win.

“I wish we could have done that at the beginning of the first half,” Aiken head coach Aubrey Pompey said of the 3-point spree, “but it’s good. They played hard. They did a good job of getting back into it and making it a ballgame.”

In the early going, Tuesday night’s game appeared to follow the script from the Jan. 11 clash between the two teams, a game Dutch Fork (21-0, 7-0 Region 5-AAAA) won by 15 points. Aiken (15-5, 5-2) had no answer for Dutch Fork’s Alaina Coates early, as she scored 14 of her game-high 23 points in the first half.

“We just tried to put a body on her,” Pompey said of defending Coates. “We were a little physical with her, but she’s tough. When she gets around the basket, it’s automatic.”

Aiken trailed by just four points early in the second quarter before a 16-2 Dutch Fork run appeared to put the game away. After Williams’ layup fell through the net, the Hornets trudged to the locker room down 18 in need of an adjustment.

“I really don’t have to tell them a whole lot,” Pompey said. “These girls are going to come out hard. I felt like they would. We just had to make sure stayed patient. They really want to win, so I didn’t have to do a whole lot of talking.”

The halftime break rejuvenated the Hornets. Aiken put together a huge third quarter, outscoring Dutch Fork by 10 to get within single digits. The Hornets drained four 3-pointers in the period, with the home crowd growing louder after each one.

The Silver Foxes felt the pressure as 3-pointer after 3-pointer continued to fall for Aiken. The Hornets made seven of them and nearly erased their deficit entirely, pulling to within two points after a Jhay Graham triple, one of her four on the night, with 17.9 seconds to play.

But Dutch Fork’s Ky’Aire Daniels coolly sank four straight free throws in the game’s waning seconds to put an end to Aiken’s wild comeback.

The Hornets will next be in action on Feb. 1 when they hit the road for a game at Lexington.

DF 14 18 8 11 – 51

A 8 6 18 13 – 46

Dutch Fork (21-0, 7-0 Region 5-AAAA)—Alaina Coates 10 3-7 23, Zhane Green 3 2-2 10, Ky’Aire Daniels 1 4-6 6, Morgan Williams 3 0-0 6, Sydney Shull 2 0-0 4, Kyla Wigfall 0 2-2 2. Totals: 19 11-17 51.

3-pointers: Green (2).

Aiken (15-5, 5-2 Region 5-AAAA)—Jhay Graham 5 0-0 14, Erin Gilmore 4 1-3 9, Hanna Williams 3 0-0 7, Rebekah Muir 2 0-1 6, Alexis Odom 2 1-2 5, Isabelle Holland 1 0-0 2, Sophie Nance 1 0-0 2. Totals: 18 2-6 45.

3-pointers: Graham (4), Muir (2), Williams.