By KYLE DAWSON
Special to the Aiken Standard
The Aiken High boys’ basketball team used stifling defense and high-flying offense to build a massive lead over visiting Dutch Fork through three quarters Tuesday night. The Hornets slipped in the final frame, but they had already done enough damage to hold on for a 56-46 home victory.
“In the fourth quarter we seemed to lose our focus, and they got back in the game,” Aiken head coach Tony Harrell said. “We were able to build a big enough lead that we were able to finish.”
Aiken’s (14-6, 5-2 Region 5-AAAA) pressure defense allowed the Hornets to race ahead of the Silver Foxes early, quickly turning the game into a track meet. Dutch Fork (5-12, 2-5) simply couldn’t keep up.
“Our on-ball pressure was fantastic,” Harrell said. “We got a lot of hands on passes. When we play good defense, we’re able to get out and run and get some easy baskets. That’s how we play.”
Aiken’s swarming defense held Dutch Fork’s Hank Edmonds and Watson Harris in check for much of the game. The two combined for 35 points in a win over South Aiken last Friday, but could only score 19 against the Hornets, 11 of them coming in the first three quarters.
Jordan Habersham’s game-opening 3-pointer gave Aiken a lead it never relinquished. The Hornets led 12-6 after the first quarter and the edge eventually grew to 24 points before Dutch Fork’s late rally.
Shawn Moore scored a game-high 16 points for the Hornets. He hit two 3-pointers and also had a pair of rim-rattling dunks in the second quarter.
The first of Moore’s dunks was the direct result of a blocked shot by Stacy Toole. A high-energy player, Toole served as one of Aiken’s main catalysts on the night. He racked up rebounds and blocks to go along with 10 points.
“I think, overall, he played his best game of the year and we’re glad he stepped up tonight,” Harrell said of Toole.
Toole and Moore combined to score 15 points in the first half, including 11 during a 13-0 run bridging the first and second quarters. Another Moore dunk punctuated the half with the Hornets up by 16.
Dramel Coleman joined Moore and Toole in double figures with 11 points. Eight of those points came in the third quarter as the Hornets continued to expand their lead.
Down 23 heading into the final period, Dutch Fork started to rally. The Silver Foxes connected on 9-of-11 free throws in the fourth quarter to make things interesting, eventually closing to within eight points. The deficit didn’t shrink as quickly as the game clock, leaving Dutch Fork without enough time to scare the Hornets.
The victory also allowed Aiken to get back in the win column after a heartbreaking one-point loss to White Knoll last Friday.
“It keeps our goals intact,” Harrell said of the victory. “Every win this time of year is very critical, so we want to keep trying to improve and keep getting wins.”
Next up for the Hornets is a road date with Lexington on Friday in a battle between the top two teams in Region 5-AAAA.
DF 6 5 12 23 – 46
A 12 15 19 10 – 56
Dutch Fork (5-12, 2-5 Region 5-AAAA)—Watson Harris 5 2-3 12, Christian Mills 0 9-10 9, Hank Edmonds 2 2-4 7, Patrick Vincent 3 0-0 6, Justin Tweito 1 2-2 4, Jamar Winston 2 0-0 4, Freddie Poole 1 0-0 2, Thad Wilson 1 0-0 2. Totals: 15 15-19 46.
Aiken (14-6, 5-2 Region 5-AAAA)—Shawn Moore 6 2-4 16, Dramel Coleman 4 3-3 11, Stacy Toole 5 0-1 10, Ryan McKie 2 5-7 9, Jordan Habersham 1 3-5 6, Justin Smith 1 0-0 2, Deon Hicks 0 1-2 1, Mike Lee 0 1-4 1. Totals: 19 15-26 56.
3-pointers: Moore (2), Habersham.