No. 4 AIKEN 65, SOUTH AIKEN 54
Tuesday night's Region 5-AAAA opener between the Aiken and South Aiken boys' basketball teams began the way so many rivalry games do.
Uncharacteristic, sloppy play on both sides, each playing at a pace as frantic as the atmosphere in a packed South Aiken gym, produced a stalemate at the mid-point.
Adjustments were necessary, and fourth-ranked Aiken wanted to get back to its bruising, physical nature.
The Hornets went on a 17-0 run in the third quarter to turn a one-point deficit into a 16-point lead, and then RJ Felton drilled four 3-pointers to snuff out a potential South Aiken rally at the start of the fourth in a 65-54 victory.
"We were just able to play our brand of basketball in the second half," said Aiken head coach Darris Jackson, whose Hornets are back in the win column in the rivalry after being swept last year. "We made plays that weren't Aiken basketball plays in the first half, and we came out and were able to grind away and be more physical. When we're a physical basketball team, we're very hard to beat. Halftime was pretty much about coming back out and being physical."
South Aiken rallied back from down 19-9 in the second quarter, largely from contributions from Dallas Mckeever and Omarion Chandler from beyond the 3-point arc, to tie it at 23 at the half.
The T-Breds carried momentum into the locker room at the half, and Devionne Burnett's free throw to open the third quarter put South Aiken ahead – but only briefly.
The Hornets countered with Felton, who scored five quick points. Charvis Jones hit a 3 and got fouled, giving Aiken an eight-point edge. The Hornets added eight more before the T-Breds got back on the board, and suddenly Aiken had a comfy, double-digit lead – again, briefly.
South Aiken charged out of its huddle to open the fourth, scoring 10 quick points to cut Aiken's lead to 47-38 and get the home crowd fired up once again.
Felton put a stop to all of that.
He made four quick 3-pointers, and Aiken surged to an 18-point lead. Felton finished with a game-high 31 points, including 23 in the second half after an atypical first. He added eight rebounds and three steals.
"He didn't have the kind of first half that he'd like, but he's too good of a player to have two halves like that," Jackson said. "He's just got to kind of keep being him, and eventually that stuff's gonna go. He's a heck of a player. We felt like if he kept playing, those shots are gonna fall. He'll start making shots, start making rips, he rebounded, he defended. He did everything we asked of him in that second half."
Jones added 11 points, five rebounds and four steals for the Hornets (15-2, 1-0), who host Midland Valley on Friday. Burnett led South Aiken (8-8, 0-1) with 21 points, 15 coming in the fourth quarter, and Mckeever had nine. South Aiken will try to bounce back Friday on the road at Brookland-Cayce.
Aiken 51, South Aiken 31
Aiken High's girls played like a team sick and tired of losing to its rival Tuesday night.
The Hornets played with high energy on both ends of the floor for a 51-31 win, their first over South Aiken since Jan. 10, 2017.
"I thought we were getting the shots we wanted early. They weren't going in. We just had to stay the course," said Aiken head coach Aubrey Pompey. "As long as they play with energy, I knew they'd probably eventually come around. We've been struggling offensively, so it was good to get some points up."
Quantashia Davis scored a game-high 12 points and AJ Jones added 10 for Aiken (7-5, 1-0 Region 5-AAAA), which used a 7-0 run to close the first quarter to go ahead 14-5. The Hornets steadily added to their lead from there.
Deovion Thomas led South Aiken in scoring with seven points, and three T-Breds had five apiece. South Aiken was within six at the half, but Aiken went on a 10-4 run to close the third quarter for a 34-21 lead.
Aiken was tenacious on defense and got out quickly in transition, producing points in the paint off drives and offensive rebounds to snap a five-game losing streak in the series.
"We've struggled the last two or three years," Pompey said. "Tonight, we talked, and I told them tonight was where we start our season, and how we perform in the conference would be big. In the last couple years, we've lost this game. Getting that win, hopefully that gives us a little bit of momentum going forward."