North Augusta jackets feel the sting of defeat
North Augusta High School's varsity boys basketball team saw its season come to an abrupt end in Sumter.
The Jackets (19-7) fell in overtime against the Gamecocks, who won on a Sonny Butler 3-pointer with 28 seconds remaining. It was deflating loss for the Jackets, not only due to it ending their season, but because North Augusta had fought so hard to get back in the game. After staking themselves to a 35-30 lead at the half, North Augusta buried itself with a four point third quarter to fall behind by five.
"The biggest thing was that they got some momentum at the end of the first half and momentum going into the third," North Augusta coach Al Young said. "We only scored four points in the third quarter and I think that's a big part of what happened. We just didn't finish."
Young also doesn't feel as though the game was lost due to halftime adjustments.
"I really don't know that they made a big adjustment," he said. "We just had some unforced turnovers and we just didn't shoot well. We missed some opportunities and some balls just didn't go. We fought back and scored well in the fourth quarter, but we had a bad third quarter. We just didn't get it done."
North Augusta was able to force a tie by scoring 14 in the fourth quarter. The long car ride likely was also a factor, as North Augusta hadn't gone on the road since Feb. 5 at Aiken. Before that the longest trip for the Jackets was on Jan. 29 at White Knoll.
"I thought we played well, but I do believe if we had been at home we would of won," Young said. "A lot of times when you're at your place and you're familiar and have your crowd it can make a big difference. They have a tremendous following and it didn't really start until halftime and the gym filled up and it got loud. Of course the crowd isn't playing, but it certainly helps."
North Augusta will have to bid farewell to a number of decorated seniors. Two of the leaders of the team, T.J. Sheppard and Tavarez Hall are both graduating. Sheppard had 15 and Hall had eight in their final high school performances.
"I'm very proud of these young men, it was something we talked about in March or April of last year," Young said. "We just committed ourselves and they certainly committed themselves. We were just in turmoil at the end of last season and didn't finish well. But they hung in there, persevered and played well together. They just did a tremendous job. I'm also proud of the young guys who came along as well."
Those young guys include sophomore Chandler Harrison, who scored a game-high 18 points. Malik Dunbar, another sophomore, also tied Sheppard's 15 points. Christian Davis, a junior who seemingly knocked down every big free throw throughout the year, also had 10 points.
The experience gained throughout this campaign for the underclassmen also cannot be understated. The sting of defeat will not only fuel Young's Jackets, but also give them a goal to best for next year.
"I certainly think the experience will help and I think we've got some guys coming back that can play," Young said. "That experience will be good, we just have to make sure to work hard and we have to bring some other guys along. It gives us a little advantage to have some key players play a lot of minutes and we just hope that will have some carry-over."