Jackets pick up sweeps at key time

Both North Augusta High School varsity teams needed to pick up wins this week, and both got exactly that.

Though both teams can't say for sure that they are in the playoffs, the odds dramatically went in their favor.

The boys (15-6, 5-3 Region 5-AAAA) picked up a hard fought road win against White Knoll, 69-56. In that game the Jackets got a strong effort from Tavarez Hall, who posted a game-high 14 points. Two other Jackets - Chandler Harrison and Malik Dunbar - added in 13 a piece.

"I was very, very proud of the way we responded," North Augusta head coach Al Young said. "Especially that White Knoll game."

Young's team followed up that win with a victory at home against South Aiken, 58-46. TJ Sheppard led the way with 18 points, including a pair of dunks in the final minute of the game. Christian Davis had 14 points, including a 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer to send his team into the locker room up 20-19, and Hall had another double-digit performance with 10 points.

"We played hard against South Aiken, and we're fighting for our lives right now," Young said. "We keep saying that we need to finish strong."

Though Young feels as though his team is in and the two weeks secured things, likely the No. 3 seed, he cautioned that things aren't final yet.

Lexington currently sits in first in the region, while Aiken is in second.

"We have said that we just need to win and see what happens," Young said. "We have to finish things off."

The upcoming week will give the Jackets a strong test, as their week was to have included a game at Aiken on Tuesday and a season finale at home against Dutch Fork on Thursday.

"It's always tough to go into Aiken, and our kids need to step up and accept the challenge," Young said. "Dutch Fork caught us by surprise last time with the ineligible player, we just have to study the film and be ready."

Young also noted that his team also needs to continue improving.

"It's important that we play better and start peaking," he said. "When the playoffs roll around, if we slip up, we're going home. We need to prepare ourselves and stay focused. Anything is possible once you're in."

The girls team is also in a similar spot, though their final week will be much more daunting.

The Jackets (11-5, 5-3) needed wins over White Knoll and South Aiken, and Jasmine Coach made sure that it happened.

Coach scored 18 points to lead the Jackets to a win at White Knoll, 48-36. She then scored 19 points in a 65-53 win over South Aiken. In North Augusta's win over the Thoroughbreds, Mallory Stone also had 13 and Ja'Lyn Sanders had 10.

"White Knoll was a very tough win, we had to fight through some adversity with the officiating," North Augusta head coach Crystal Cummings said.

"But we responded well and that carried over to practice. Then against South Aiken we jumped out in the third quarter and I was able to give everyone some playing time. That was a total team victory."

Cummings said that her team is likely in third, looking up at their opponents this week. The team has had revenge on its mind for both Aiken, who they lost to 58-44, and the undefeated Dutch Fork, who won 63-37.

"We are looking forward to that matchup at Aiken, we're going into that with a chip on our shoulders," Cummings said. "When it comes to Dutch Fork, the senior leaders have been really helpful. That's senior night and we believe we can win. No one on our team believes Dutch Fork can come in here and beat us again. No one has the mentality that this can't be done."

Wins over Aiken and Dutch Fork, should they happen, would be a giant boost in momentum for the Jackets according to Cummings.

"We're looking for two wins this week, I believe two wins here would be crucial for our mindset," she said. "Once we get past Aiken with a win and momentum we'll have confidence going against Dutch Fork and into the playoffs. Twos wins over the top teams in our region would really settle our nerves. We just had to play total team defense and take no possessions off."