Time running out for Jackets' playoff push

Another week, another split for the North Augusta High School varsity basketball teams.

The boys' team (13-6, 3-3 Region 5-AAAA) suffered a setback at Dutch Fork last Tuesday, 68-60. It was a game where the Jackets were caught off guard.

"They had a player who returned from being ineligible; it was his first game back," North Augusta head coach Al Young said. "We hadn't scouted him, and we were caught off balance. It was a pretty big loss for us."

Young had hoped that the team would be able to get some breathing room in the region. Instead, the team went into a home tilt at Lexington with an extra chip on its shoulder. The Jackets responded with a convincing 84-59 win. TJ Sheppard led the team with 35 points.

"TJ was just outstanding for us; he was all over the court," Young said. "But we all played well together and didn't let the pressure get to us. We rebounded really well and played within the game. TJ showed those flashes of being the special player that he is."

Tavarez Hall also had 17 points, and Malik Dunbar also scored in double digits.

Right now the Jackets sit in the middle of Region 5-AAAA and need wins to move out from being stuck in the pack. The upcoming slate, which was to have included a game against White Knoll on Tuesday and a home matchup with South Aiken, could do the trick. North Augusta had beaten both teams earlier this month.

"We hope that we don't have another split; it would definitely make our lives easier if we beat both of them," Young said. "This is a region where you have to come to play. Any given night someone can beat you. We hope that the playoff picture clears up a bit for us this week and that we can control our destiny. If we don't, then things will be fuzzy for us."

The North Augusta girls' varsity team also sits in a similar position.

The Jackets (9-5, 3-3) fell at Dutch Fork 63-37. It was a tough matchup for the Jackets, as the Silver Foxes boast South Carolina commit Aliana Coates, a 6-foot-4 center. Coates currently averages 18.8 points and 10 rebounds a game.

"Against Dutch Fork we had gotten out of our rhythm and style," North Augusta head coach Crystal Cummings said. "The matchup was a little bit uneven for us, and we weren't playing our game."

The Jackets turned their fortunes around at home against Lexington last Friday with a 56-43 win. Mallory Stone had 23 points, and Jasmine Coach added in 14 to the cause.

"With Lexington we stressed discipline, and our defense really helped us out," Cummings said.

The Jackets will also boast recent wins over White Knoll and South Aiken, which will be what's up next for them.

"We're looking forward to those games; we beat them both last time," Cummings said. "We're looking for that extra lift because our final week is tough."

That final week will feature games at Aiken and against Dutch Fork.

"We're focusing on defense and principles; our defense creates our offense," Cummings said. "We hope to get two wins this week and get some added fuel against Aiken."

As far as Dutch Fork is concerned, Cummings is confident her team will fare better in the rematch.

"I think we can beat Dutch Fork on our court," she said. "We get some momentum going and play better, then good things will happen."