Aiken Hornets gut out overtime win over North Augusta
AIKEN 45, NORTH AUGUSTA 41
Aiken boys' basketball coach Tony Harrell didn't have all his weapons at his disposal down the stretch in Friday's Region 5-AAAA game against North Augusta, but he had the right ones to pick up a 45-41 overtime victory.
With Dramel Coleman out indefinitely with a leg injury and Deon Hicks cramping in the fourth quarter and overtime, the host Hornets (12-6, 3-1) got five overtime points from Devante Gaiters to push past the Yellow Jackets (13-4, 3-1). The win puts Aiken in a three-way tie with North Augusta and Dutch Fork for first place in the region, with the Hornets having the edge with a pair of head-to-head victories.
“It's always big to get region wins because you're fighting for the playoffs,” Harrell said. “I thought our team played with outstanding intensity all night.”
Aiken led 9-4 after the first quarter, with Stacy Toole scoring seven for the Hornets and Malik Dunbar scoring all four for the Jackets. Toole finished the game with 11 points to lead the home team, while Dunbar was one of three scoring leaders for the Jackets with 13.
The second quarter belonged to North Augusta's Chandler Harrison. The Jackets won the frame 18-5, with Harrison scoring the first seven points of the quarter to give the visitors a lead. In all, he scored nine of his 13 points in the second quarter.
“It was very important because we got off to a very slow start,” said North Augusta head coach Al Young. “I think our nerves were bad.”
Rounding out the 13-point trio for the Jackets was Christian Davis, who also hit some big shots just before halftime to help lead North Augusta to a 22-16 lead at the break.
Aiken rode a 16-7 third quarter to get back in front 30-29 heading into the fourth quarter, but the visitors didn't go away.
Both teams played tight, aggressive defense all game, and the officials were conservative to with their whistles. Through 36 minutes of basketball, the teams combined for 17 free throws.
“We always want to play well defensively,” said Young. “I thought they did a great job against us.”
He pointed to the Hornets' ability to get back after turnovers, which didn't allow his Jackets to get the easy transition buckets they're accustomed to.
“We did an outstanding job defensively,” Harrell said.
The teams traded possessions for much of the fourth, with neither team able to pull away. The Jackets got the ball back with the game tied at 37-all and less than a minute remaining, but they decided they wanted to ensure the last shot. Davis dribbled more than 40 seconds off the clock before Young called a timeout with seven seconds remaining in regulation.
“We feel like that's a part of our ending game,” Young said of the ability to milk time off for the final attempt, using either Davis or Jaquez Smith.
Aiken's Nakeem Spann appeared to get a steal with about five seconds left, but a foul was called. Neither team was in the bonus, so the Jackets took the ball back out, with Smith missing a shot at the buzzer.
That sent the teams to overtime tied at 37, and with Hicks unavailable for much of the fourth quarter and still hurting going into overtime, Harrell knew he'd have to look elsewhere for the big buckets.
“I told them, 'No one person has to pick up the slack. Each individual has got to do a little bit more than you usually do,'” he said.
After Harrison scored the period's first three points, a player stepped right up for the Hornets. Gaiters, who had not scored in regulation, nailed a 3-pointer to tie the game at 40-all with 1:16 to go in overtime.
Harrell said that when he put Gaiters back in the game the final time, he had a message for the junior, who had not been taking advantage of some good looks, in the coach's estimation.
“I said, 'If you're open, let it go,'” Harrell said.
The Jackets took the lead once more on a free throw by Harrison, but he missed the second of a pair. That sent the Hornets streaking down court, and senior Megal Hill put the Hornets up for good with a traditional three-point play on a driving effort. Hill finished the game with 10 points.
The visitors got a couple close looks that didn't fall, and Gaiters iced it by converting a one-and-one at the free-throw line after the officials put half a second back on the clock.
The Hornets will host White Knoll on Monday, while North Augusta will look to regroup for a road game against Lexington, which handed Aiken its lone region loss so far.
“We've just got to get in the gym and work,” Young said.
NA 4 18 7 8 4 – 41
AHS 9 5 16 7 8 – 45
North Augusta (13-4, 3-1) — Malik Dunbar 6 0-0 13, Chandler Harrison 5 2-4 13, Christian Davis 5 2-2 13, Jaleel Bryant 1 0-0 2. Totals 17 4-6 41.
3-pointers: Dunbar, Harrison, Davis.
Aiken (12-6, 3-1) — Stacy Toole 5 1-2 11, Dominic Chaplin 2 0-0 6, Megal Hill 3 3-5 10, Deon Hicks 3 0-0 9, Jordan McKevie 1 0-2 2, Dexter Sullivan 1 0-0 2, Devante Gaiters 1 2-2 5. Totals 16 6-11 45.
3-pointers: Chaplin (2), Hill, Hicks (3), Gaiters.
GIRLS NORTH AUGUSTA 31 AIKEN 30
Aiken led for much of the game, but a late surge by visiting North Augusta resulted in a 31-30 Region 5-AAAA win for the Jackets.
Mallory Stone scored eight consecutive points for the Jackets (9-9, 4-0 Region 5-AAAA) to turn a 21-20 deficit into a 28-21 lead early in the fourth quarter.
“Like a switch flipped, and we said, 'Hey, if we don't do something, we're going to lose this game,'” said North Augusta head coach Crystal Cummings.
The Hornets (5-12, 1-3) weren't done, and the home team even got a couple looks at the basket, but Sophie Nance – who led Aiken with 10 points – couldn't get a good enough shot to pick up the win as the clock expired.
North Augusta held a 7-5 lead after the first quarter, but Aiken opened the second quarter with an 8-0 run to take the lead and held a 16-12 advantage at halftime. The Hornets continued to hold on and took 21-18 into the final quarter before Stone's heroics began.
North Augusta will hit the road to play Lexington on Tuesday, while Aiken will host White Knoll.
NA 7 5 6 13 – 31
AHS 5 11 5 9 – 30
North Augusta (9-9, 4-0) — Ja'Lyn Sanders 2 0-0 5, Alexus Williams 1 1-4 3, Mallory Stone 5 5-6 17, Sierra Sanders 1 0-0 2, Cydney Mathews 2 0-0 4, Destiny Mathews 0 0-1 0. Totals 11 6-11 31.
3-pointers: J. Sanders, Stone (2).
Aiken (5-12, 1-3) — Asia Johnson 0 0-3 0, Sophie Nance 4 2-4 10, Miracle Johnson 4 1-2 9, Alexis Odom 2 3-4 7, Destiny Williams 1 0-0 2, Maggie Odom 0 2-2 2. Totals 11 8-15 30.
Jeremy Timmerman has a journalism degree from Mercer University. Follow him on Twitter @ASJTimm.