Jackets have up and down week

The North Augusta High School boys' basketball team had two big region matchups this week, and both couldn't have had more different results.

The Jackets (12-5, 2-2 Region 5-AAAA) picked up a hard fought win at South Aiken on Jan. 15, 66-62.

North Augusta had to fend off multiple runs by the Thoroughbreds, particularly in the fourth quarter. On a night where the team only had one player in double digits - TJ Sheppard with 14 - it took multiple players coming through in clutch moments.

Christian Davis knocked down four key free throws down the stretch, including two with 36 seconds remaining in the game. Keyon West hit a key 3-pointer to put North Augusta ahead by two. Sheppard's lone made free throw was also at a critical juncture with the clock winding down.

"I think that's big, if they don't make those free throws then we're in trouble," North Augusta head coach Al Young said following the game. "That's something we stress in practice and they know if we don't make free throws then we can lose."

Against Aiken, things didn't start out nearly as well.

The Jackets trailed 23-8 after the first quarter, and though the team fought back, the hole was too much to overcome. Aiken would go on to win 71-62.

"We dug ourselves a hole in the first quarter," Young said following the loss. "They got off to a great start, and it took so much to get back in the game; it took a lot of energy, and we couldn't overcome it."

Tavarez Hall led the team with 14 points, while Sheppard was right behind him with 12. Kenny Finley matched Sheppard's output, and Malik Dunbar also had nine points.

"We haven't played anybody better than us. We're beating ourselves, basically," Hall said.

The North Augusta girls mirrored the boys' efforts as well.

The Jackets (8-4, 2-2) were able to win on the road at South Aiken, 53-42. Mallory Stone had 26 points, with a big chunk of those coming off steals that she turned into easy layups.

"When we play our 1-2-2 defense she plays the point and traps the ball really well," North Augusta head coach Crystal Cummings said following the game. "We always look to push the ball in transition, and we forced a lot of turnovers. I believe that she was the quickest thing on the court tonight, and when she's out in the open she's gone."

Ja'Lyn Sanders also had 10 points in the victory.

The defensive pressure flustered the Thoroughbreds, but unfortunately that momentum didn't carry over to the team's tilt at home against Aiken.

The game was close heading into the fourth, with North Augusta only trailing by one. But Aiken had an offensive outburst in the fourth to win 57-44.

"I think we're just trying to focus on playing our games. Oftentimes, when we hit a rough patch, it's because we're trying to do either too much or too little on offense," Cummings said. "I just try to tell them to relax and focus during the game - just kind of let the game come to you and don't try to make stuff happen."

Stone led the team in the losing effort with 14 points.

North Augusta's week was to have included games at Dutch Fork on Tuesday and at home against Lexington on Friday.

Aiken Standard Sports Editor Noah Feit contributed to this report.