Thursday, February 27, 2014
The North Augusta girls basketball team came into the season expecting to compete for a region crown.
The Jackets (14-12) flirted with the top of the region standings for much of the year, finishing as region runner up to Dutch Fork.
“Our season, we had a slow start but picked it up when it counted – in region play,” Crystal Cummings, North Augusta’s head coach, said. “Although we didn’t win the region, we came very close and finished in second place. We were in third place last year, so we improved slightly.”
“I am certainly most proud of my team overcoming adversity,” Mallory Stone, a senior captain for the Jackets and All-State selection, said. “We have gone through so much this season to get to where we finished.”
Cummings and Stone led the Jackets into the second round of the playoffs, where they fell to Summerville 59-52.
“It was close, we were leading for most of the game,” she said. “We got a little careless with the ball and just stopped rebounding for some reason. I think they (Summerville) got about four or five offensive rebounds and putbacks. I kind of felt that my team was standing around watching the game happen, instead of taking part in it down the stretch. We had some foul trouble, Mallory fouled out with about three minutes to go, on a bad decision. I think we started watching the game instead of taking it. We can’t give teams all the second chance opportunities.”
On the floor, Stone and fellow senior Ja’Lyn Sanders paced the Jackets offensively and will be tough to replace going forward.
“We had two seniors, Ja’Lyn and Mal, who carried the team as far as scoring,” Cummings said. “So, points wise, that senior class meant a whole lot on the court. We had some nonseniors who played some major, key roles that I felt kept us in games, despite the scoring from Ja’Lyn and Mal. Senior class, they led the team this year.”
The underclassmen, led by Cydney Matthews, are already looking forward to next season. Matthews and Tempestt Key are two players Cummings expects big things from next season.
“She (Cydney) is the next one,” Cummings said. “We’re going to work all offseason to get better as a team. She made a big difference, although she didn’t lead any statistical category. We were a lot different with her on the court. Effort, energy, she brought it all to the court.”
Key, a guard, fought back from injury and a year away from basketball to suit up this season.
“We were pretty good, the chemistry was kinda off just because we had freshmen coming up,” she said. “I didn’t play last year because of injury and we came from a losing streak. We had to build that chemistry to create some wins for us. The region was pretty good for us. Getting to know each other’s personalities and just getting to know everybody really helped us in the region. We were able to come together a little bit. We had a lot to prove to people, we were doubted. That anger from the talk gave us the aggression to win.”
Already moving into next season, Key expects to a region title to North Augusta.
“With Cydney and Alexus (Williams) and myself (we should win it),” she said. “I’m trying to work back from injury and we have some talented freshmen coming up. We’ve been playing together for years, so we’re going to be pretty strong on the chemistry part.”
T.J. Lundeen is a reporter for the North Augusta Star. Follow him on Twitter @lundeentj for more updates.