Sunday, February 24, 2013
The North Augusta High School boys basketball is still alive in the Class AAAA playoffs, though it did take an explosive fourth quarter in the first round.
The Jackets (19-6) needed a 34 point fourth quarter to beat Richland Northeast and defend their home court. The Jackets had trailed 49-33 heading into the final frame.
"The first win was just a great come back and we were able to finish there at the end," North Augusta head coach Al Young said. "We had been down for most of the game and we had some foul trouble early on."
T.J. Sheppard had 20 points to lead North Augusta in the 67-65 win. Malik Dunbar had 15 points and Christian Davis had 12 points, as well. As he has done so many times this year, he knocked down some key free throws in the final moments.
The second round didn't have nearly the same suspense.
North Augusta roared out of the gates to stake itself to a 20-7 lead over West Ashley. From there the Jackets would cruise to a convincing 55-38 win over the Wildcats.
"That was a lot different, we just played our game and played well that night, and we were able to finish," Young said.
North Augusta's leading scorer was Tavarez Hall, who had 12. Sheppard was right behind him with 11 and Davis also had eight. It was yet another testament to North Augusta's deep team that has many different players who can score and step up on any given night.
A Lower State semifinal matchup at Sumter will be the next test for Young's team in a game that was to have happened on Tuesday. A victory would put the Jackets up against the winner of Goose Creek and Ridge View for the Lower State title.
Regardless of the outcome, it has been quite the run for North Augusta, who has only lost three times since the New Year, none since Jan. 22 and all three were later avenged in rematches (Lexington, Dutch Fork and Aiken).
"We just hope it's not over, and I'm just so proud of our kids," Young said. "We've had our backs against the wall, both in the first round and in the region and we fought back and came back. And now here we are."
The North Augusta girls were also able to get a playoff win, but saw their season come to an end in the second round.
The Jackets (13-7) notched a win at Carolina Forest in the first round, 63-48. Jasmine Coach had 22 points and Mallory Stone also reached the 20 point mark.
"The first playoff win was great, our defense was on point and we got a lot of defensive steals and we limited them to the one shot opportunity," North Augusta head coach Crystal Cummings said. "And we pushed the ball up the court in transition and played more of our game."
It was a special win for Cummings, who was in her first year as at the helm at North Augusta. Unfortunately for the Jackets, everything that went right against Carolina Forest seemed to go wrong at West Ashley in the second round.
Coach once again led the Jackets in points, this time with 15. Desmonet Wilson had nine, but Stone, one of the more prolific players on the team, was held to just six points.
"Honestly, in that final matchup, I think that, in my personal opinion, we kind of beat ourselves a little bit," Cummings said. "We always stress the little things you have to do and the things you have to do right and the team that makes the least mistakes comes out on top. We just had too many mistakes and had a few people get in foul trouble and it was hard to rebound from that."
Though the season ended earlier than she would of preferred, Cummings is still pleased with the team's overall performance. She's also hopeful about the team's future and what kind of improvements can be made in her second year.
"In this first year I learned a lot about myself as a coach and I can take everything I've learned and move forward into the offseason," she said. "Having the whole offseason to work with the team, I think we're going to go ahead and start our offseason conditioning in the next week and half or so. We are returning three of the five starters, so that's a good starting point. Mallory Stone will be coming back as a senior and Ja'Lyn Sanders will pick up right where we left off. I'll have time to get to know them as players, students and young ladies. Nowhere to go but up."