NORTH AUGUSTA 71, SOUTH AIKEN 28
The third quarter was a point of emphasis last year for the North Augusta girls' basketball team as they defended their Class AAAA state championship.
They looked at that stretch as their opportunity to really put the game out of reach, and their performance Tuesday night at South Aiken was a great example of how they can end a game long before the final whistle.
Top-ranked North Augusta outscored South Aiken 25-0 in the third quarter, turning a nine-point halftime lead into a 34-point edge heading into the fourth quarter. The Yellow Jackets only allowed five points there, cruising to a 71-28 win and a 3-0 start to Region 5-AAAA play.
J'Mani Ingram led North Augusta in scoring with 19 points, and Mya and Tyliah Burns each scored 17. Amorie Kostelak scored 11 to lead South Aiken, which fell to 2-1 in league play.
North Augusta jumped out to an 11-0 lead to start the game before South Aiken found its footing. The Yellow Jackets were balanced offensively, with Ingram scoring eight points near the basket and each of the Burnses making 3-pointers.
South Aiken got on the board thanks to the quick release of Kostelak, who made three 3-pointers in the first half and took advantage of Aysha Scott's drive-and-dish runs through the North Augusta defense.
The lead was just 32-23 heading into the half for North Augusta, which won its first two region games by an average of 40 points.
The Yellow Jackets exceeded that in the second half, as they played the kind of basketball that's produced back-to-back state championships. They scored the first five points of the fourth quarter, stretching their run to 30-0 before two Mekaihla Blocker free throws put points on the board for South Aiken after a drought that lasted nearly 10 minutes.
Region 5-AAAA play continues Friday for both schools. North Augusta hosts Midland Valley, and South Aiken visits Airport.
North Augusta 20 12 25 14 — 71
South Aiken 8 15 0 5 — 28
North Augusta: J'Mani Ingram 8 3-6 19, Tyliah Burns 6 4-7 17, Mya Burns 8 0-0 17, Kiana Lee 3 0-0 7, Aaliyah Bell 2 0-0 4, Peris Smith 1 0-0 2, Lania Holmes 1 0-0 2, Aricka Moore 1 0- 2, Aiyana Hightower 0 1-2 1. Totals 30 8-15 71.
3-pointers: T. Burns, M. Burns, Lee.
South Aiken: Amorie Kostelak 4 0-0 11, Aysha Scott 2 2-2 7, Mekaihla Blocker 2 2-2 6, Alexes Young 1 0-0 3, Deovion Thomas 0 1-4 1. Totals 9 5-8 28.
3-pointers: Kostelak (3), Young, Scott.
NORTH AUGUSTA 64, SOUTH AIKEN 51
Much like the girls did in the early game, North Augusta's boys utilized a couple of big scoring runs to fuel a region win Tuesday at South Aiken.
A 15-0 run in the first half erased a 10-point South Aiken lead, and an 11-0 run to close the third quarter broke a 39-all tie and gave North Augusta a commanding lead on its way to a 64-51 win and a 3-0 start to region play.
RJ Felton scored a game-high 23 points for North Augusta, and Chris Wilder added 10. Darin Parker scored 19 for South Aiken, which is now 1-1 in Region 5-AAAA.
Pressure defense and 3-point baskets were big parts of those North Augusta runs. The Yellow Jackets made five in the second quarter as they turned a 16-11 deficit into a 32-31 halftime lead, and they made five more in the second half to build on that advantage.
Parker was South Aiken's best scoring threat throughout the night, especially early in the game. He scored 13 points in the first half, and he was effective on the offensive glass plus positioned himself well in the paint for easy buckets.
He and his teammates were mostly silenced in the second half, though. North Augusta outscored South Aiken 18-8 in the third quarter to surge ahead by 11, and the Yellow Jackets kept the T-Breds without a bucket for nearly 7 minutes in the fourth quarter.
North Augusta will look to move to 4-0 in region play when it hosts Midland Valley on Friday.
South Aiken has a faster turnaround, albeit not for a full game. The T-Breds will head back to Aiken High at 6 p.m. Wednesday to resume their Jan. 9 game that was halted late in the third quarter due to an altercation in the stands. Aiken leads that game 33-27 with 39.7 seconds left in the third quarter.
After that, South Aiken will continue its schedule with a road game Friday at Airport.