NORTH AUGUSTA 66, AIKEN 63

By MIKE ROSIER


Special to the Aiken Standard


Christian Davis had helped will North Augusta back to within striking distance on Tuesday after he and the Jackets found themselves on the road and being swarmed by rival Aiken High’s Hornets.


But would it be enough?


As the ball hung there in the air off of his fingertips, Davis contemplated all it had taken to get his team back to this position – down just one point at 63-62 with seconds remaining in the game. After taking an early 20-10 lead in the first quarter, Aiken had wrested control of the game away from North Augusta and held it until late in the fourth quarter.


That’s when the Jackets had gone to full-court pressure and started to whittle away at the Hornets bit by bit and basket by basket. They had forced Aiken coach Tony Harrell to use two precious timeouts just to inbound the ball.


And even then they still lost possession and North Augusta’s Tavarez Hall layed the ball in to get the Jackets within a point. Then Davis forced another turnover.


All of that led to Davis launching into the air for a baseline jumper with under 20 seconds left in the game, a jumper that touched nothing but the net as the crowd exploded with the final lead change in the game with North Augusta now back in the lead – 64-63.


Aiken charged back down the court for an attempt at a game-winning shot, but Davis stepped in front of a Hornet pass and was fouled, hitting on both free throws to clinch a thrilling 66-63 victory.


“All I thought about was putting (the ball) in the (basket),” a drenched and spent Davis, who finished with 14 points in the game, said after the thriller. “It’s just a huge win for this team. We just kept battling and we got it done.”


Forget that it was supposed to be a battle for second-place in the Region 5-AAAA standings, these two teams played like the region crown had been there for the taking. And who knows, perhaps for North Augusta it was. Region 5-AAAA leader Lexington fell to Dutch Fork on Tuesday opening the door for Al Young’s Jackets to walk away with the title if they can hold serve on Thursday at home.


“The thing tonight is that we didn’t quit when they took the lead and looked like they had control of the game,” Young said. “We turned up the intensity there at the end and we’re just really fortunate to get out of here with a victory.”


North Augusta, which can clinch the region title on Thursday with a win against Dutch Fork, moves to 17-6 on the season and 6-3 in Region 5-AAAA.


Aiken had weathered an early storm of their own and fired back in the second quarter, dissecting North Augusta’s match-up zone with ease, forcing the Jackets to eventually go to a man-to-man look. Still, they couldn’t slow down Aiken’s Shawn Moore, who led all scorers in the game with 23 points.


The Hornets, who controlled the boards and appeared to get to every loose ball, seemed to have things under control even as late as 3:58 to go in the final quarter with a 10-point lead at 61-51. But it was not to be as the Jackets stormed back on a 13-2 run to close out the contest.


“It was a great ballgame where it was tough to see anyone lose, but they made a few more plays than we did down the stretch,” said Aiken coach Tony Harrell. “My kids gave an outstanding effort tonight and we will use this game as motivation heading into the playoffs.”


The Hornets (15-8 overall and 5-4 in Region 5-AAAA) were without the services of starter Dramel Coleman, who has an injured hand and may be out for the remainder of the season.


“It doesn’t look good, but if we are able to get him back for the playoffs that will be a bonus for us,” Harrell added. “We are going to need some guys to step up for us, but if we get the sort of effort that we got tonight we can go out and win a couple of playoff games.”


Hall led the Jackets with a team-high 18 points, with Chandler Harrison adding in 16 points. Following Moore for Aiken was Ryan McKie with 13 points.


“There’s no doubt that everyone got their money’s worth tonight,” Harrell said.


NA 20 8 16 22 – 66


A 18 21 11 16 – 63


North Augusta (17-6, 6-3 in Region 5-AAAA) – Christian Davis 5 2-2 14, Jaquez Smith 2 0-0 5, Malik Dunbar 3 0-2 6, TJ Sheppard 0 1-2 1, Kenny Finley 0 2-2 2, Chandler Harrison 5 5-6 16, Tavarez Hall 9 0-1 18, Victor Johnson 1 2-4 4. Totals: 25 12-19 66. 3-pointers: Davis 2, Smith 1, Harrison 1.


Aiken (15-8, 5-4 in Region 5-AAAA) – Megal Hill 3 0-0 6, Shawn Moore 8 4-4 23, Jordan Habersham 2 0-0 5, Ryan McKie 6 1-3 13, Dean Hicks 2 0-0 6, Jared Davis 1 2-2 4, John Besson 2 0-0 4, Stacey Tool 1 0-0 2. Totals: 25 7-9 63. 3-pointers: Moore 3, Habersham 1, Hicks 2.