Aiken High boys’ basketball displays depth in win over Strom Thurmond
AIKEN 52, STROM THURMOND 35
The Aiken High School boys’ basketball team came into Friday’s game against Strom Thurmond without one of its best players. Dramel Coleman, a dynamic swingman who serves as a catalyst for the Hornets’ offense wasn’t at the James A. Taylor Student Activities Center because he was in Myrtle Beach. The standout football player was preparing for today’s North-South All-Star Football Game and wasn’t available to provide a scoring punch for his squad, which was looking to bounce back from last Friday’s loss to Midland Valley.
Against the Rebels, Coleman wasn’t needed. Aiken head coach Tony Harrell got quality minutes from a quantity of players – including one in particular – in a 52-35 win.
Fellow senior Stacy Toole stepped up in a big way. He had 18 points in the win, providing plenty of scoring while also helping to man the inside of a stingy Hornet defense that had a young Rebel squad out of synch.
“I sat Stacy down this week and told him I needed more from him,” Harrell said of his conversation with the veteran big man who plays with a team-first approach, often deferring on offense to other potent teammates.
But against Strom Thurmond, Toole provided a spark in an otherwise low-scoring game. He leaked out ahead of the rest of the players in transition, flying down the court as Aiken looked to push, especially in the second quarter. Toole gracefully moved from his spot in the zone defense and got clear of everyone else on the court. That allowed the Hornets to expand a five-point lead into a 35-21 halftime advantage, and he fired up the crowd with a pair of dunks. The first one came with a Rebel draped on his back, with Toole sinking the free throw for the momentous and-one.
“He was very aggressive from the tip. That and-one dunk set the tone for the rest of the night,” Harrell said of the scoring series that put his team ahead by eight points, as close as the advantage would get the rest of the game. “That was one of his best games since he’s been at Aiken High.”
He got a boost from his low-post partner Jordan McKevie, who contributed 10 points and tough defense. Devante Gaiters also provided help by connecting on three 3-pointers in the first half. They were just two of 10 players Harrell used in the first half, as he went deep into his bench, rewarding several reserves for a good week of practices.
Toole scored 11 of his 14 first-half points in the second quarter, when the Hornets ran as much as possible. They scored 23 points in the period, which was primarily the result of their defense. Harrell said he switched up the looks they were confronting the Rebels with, leading to steals, loose balls and fastbreaks.
“They came out and went zone. That threw us,” said Bo Rouse, the Strom Thurmond head coach. “We stunk it up and didn’t play well.”
The Rebels (1-2) never found a rhythm on offense. They did their best to keep the Hornets within reach, but the lack of any consistent scoring prevented them from mounting a rally. Even in the fourth quarter, when they held Aiken scoreless for more than six minutes, the Rebels could only muster six points of their own, and still trailed by double digits.
Deontrez Mealing was the only Rebel to score in double digits, finishing with 10 points in a game where the Hornets outscored them in every quarter. In spite of the setback and the struggles, Rouse said this game will benefit his team in the long run.
“It’s only going to make us better playing tough teams,” Rouse said of his squad which will return to action tonight on the road against North Augusta, another Class AAAA power. “We’re very young. We only have two seniors. This is a learning experience now.”
For his part, Harrell wasn’t thrilled with his squad’s lack of offensive execution in the second half, mustering fewer points in the final two quarters than it posted in the second alone.
“We were good in the first half, the second was not as good. But I’m pleased to get out with the win,” Harrell said of his team which will also have a quick turnaround when it returns to action tonight at Midland Valley. “Midland Valley’s very good. They beat us and outplayed us. We’re looking forward to the challenge and hope to play a better ballgame.”
Coleman’s status for tonight’s game is also in doubt. Harrell joked that Coleman said to bring his jersey to Graniteville, hoping to arrive in time to play after participating in the all-star football game. He should definitely be available when the Hornets play host to Spring Valley on Tuesday. That game was originally scheduled to be on the road, but has been switched to Aiken High.
ST 7 14 8 6 – 35
AIK 12 23 10 7 – 52
Strom Thurmond (1-2)—Tyree Stidem 1 0-0 2, Deontrez Mealing 4 1-2 10, Jeremy Carroll 1 1-1 3, Ryan Williams 1 1-2 3, Donte Stover 3 1-2 7, Jermaine Turman 2 0-2 4, Jacob Cook 3 0-0 6. Totals: 15 4-9 35.
Aiken (2-1)—Megal Hill 1 0-1 2, Deon Gaiters 0 1-3 1, Devante Gaiters 3 0-0 9, Deon Hicks 2 0-0 5, Stacy Toole 8 2-3 18, Jordan McKevie 4 2-2 10, Zachary Watson 0 0-1 0, Dominic Chaplin 1 0-0 3, DJ Kitchings 1 1-2 3, Marquis Adams 0 1-2 1. Totals: 20 7-14 52.
3-Pointers: Devante Gaiters (3), Hicks, Chaplin.
AIKEN GIRLS 47, STROM THURMOND 25
The Aiken High School girls’ basketball team wore down the visitors from Strom Thurmond in a 47-25 victory, the Hornets’ second win in a row. Aiken (2-3) was the more active of the teams, and was able to execute at a higher level on both ends of the floor.
The Hornets were aggressive on defense, forcing turnovers that not only prevented the Rebels (1-2) from scoring, but also sparked their own offense. Alexis Odom scored a game-best nine points for Aiken, which used a pair of 6-0 runs at the start and end of the third quarter to put the score well out of reach and swell the home team’s lead to more than 20 points. Kelsee Sapp came off the bench with seven points for the Hornets, who also got a combined 12 points from Destiny Williams and Maggie Odom.
Tierra Nick led Strom Thurmond with eight points, while Michale Griffin contributed seven for the team that will play at North Augusta tonight.
ST 6 5 4 10 – 25
AIK 9 13 12 13 – 47
Strom Thurmond (1-2)—Ashlee Chinn 1 0-0 2, Ebony Robinson 0 0-4 0, Lyric Tillman 0 1-2 1, Michale Griffin 2 3-4 7, Brianna Thomas 0 0-3 0, April Jones 1 0-0 2, Keeley Marchant 0 1-2 1, Tierra Nick 3 2-4 8, Shay Widner 0 4-6 4. Totals: 7 11-25 25.
Aiken (2-3)—Kelsee Sapp 2 3-6 7, Tyesha McKevie 1 1-2 3, Destiny Williams 3 0-0 6, Tri Ingram 2 0-0 4, Asia Johnson 2 0-1 4, Miracle Johnson 1 0-0 2, Maggie Odom 3 0-0 6, Alexis Odom 4 1-4 9, Sophie Nance 3 0-2 6. Totals: 21 5-15.
Noah Feit is the sports editor for the Aiken Standard and has been a professional journalist for more than 14 years after graduating from Syracuse University.