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North Augusta High School Jackets gear up for playoffs
With the final week of the regular season in the books, both the girls and the boys of the North Augusta varsity basketball teams have turned their attention to the playoffs.
The boys (17-6, 7-3 Region 5-AAAA) won the region thanks to a tiebreaker they held over Lexington. The Wildcats beat the Jackets 67-44 on Jan. 8, but North Augusta avenged that loss on a Jan. 25 meeting 84-59. The two point difference between the two wins was enough to give North Augusta the region crown.
Of course, that wouldn't have happened without the Jackets closing the season with two victories.
Tavarez Hall had 18 points to lead North Augusta to a 66-63 win at Aiken last Tuesday. Christian Davis had 14 points as well, none bigger than a jump shot with 20 seconds remaining. The shot put the Jackets ahead of the Hornets, 64-63, and was the first time North Augusta led since the second quarter. Davis would go on to also knock down two free throws. Chandler Harrison also had 16 points to round out the Jackets' double-digit scorers.
"We got off to a good start, but Aiken fought back and went ahead," North Augusta coach Al Young said, referring to the Jackets 20-10 start to open the game. "But our kids just hung in there and we got a real good burst at the end. We played well defensively, got some steals, and made some shots down the stretch. I just think that it showed a lot of determination."
The Jackets controlled their own destiny heading into a matchup with Dutch Fork last Friday on Senior Night. Young's squad responded with a 49-36 win over the Silver Foxes. TJ Sheppard, one of the many senior leaders on the team, led the way with 14 points to bounce back from a one point performance against Aiken. Davis was the other high scorer for North Augusta with 10 points.
"I thought we played well defensively and we had a good idea of what to do," Young said. "We were patient and did what we needed to do."
North Augusta will host Richland Northeast on Wednesday in its first round playoff game. A victory by the Jackets would put them in another home matchup on Saturday against the winner of Fort Dorchester and West Ashley.
"I know that they're big, I've talked to a few people and I understand that they have some size and depth with their guards," Young said of Richland Northeast. "But their overall size is a strength of theirs."
The Jacket girls (12-6, 6-4) weren't as fortunate, but did get a split and a playoff berth.
North Augusta was able to go into Aiken and get a close win as well, 40-38. After scoring just nine points in the first half, granted they held Aiken to 14, North Augusta was able to get its shots to drop. Mallory Stone and Jasmine Coach both had 11 points in the win.
"All the hard work and everything, and just the fact that was lost against Aiken the first time, it culminated everything we had worked on defensively throughout the season," North Augusta head coach Crystal Cummings said.
That momentum wasn't able to carry over against defending state champion Dutch Fork. The Silver Foxes, who finished with a perfect regular season record, beat the Jackets 69-42. Jasmine Coach had nine points and Ja'Lyn Sanders had eight as no Jacket players scored in double figures.
"We just didn't have an answer for her at all," Cummings said of Dutch Fork's Alaina Coates, a 6-foot-5 University of South Carolina commit who had 38 points and 19 rebounds. "We tried to work throughout practice leading up to the Dutch Fork game on trying to catch her early. I noticed that if she doesn't catch it on the blocks she isn't going to put it on the floor and drive to the basket. We tried to catch her at the free-throw lane, but they ran some pick-and-rolls and hit her high with the lob pass and we didn't have an answer for that."
Though it was an emotional loss for Cummings' squad, she was still proud of her team's effort.
"It was a battle, but considering her size and everything, my big girls that played her played her fairly," she said. "Considering that we don't play many people like her and we don't play many people that are just that tall. The matchup wasn't favorable for us, but we do preach playing every possession and giving it 100 percent and playing four full quarter."
The Jackets' first playoff game was to have happened on Tuesday at Carolina Forest in Myrtle Beach. Should North Augusta win that game, the team will either go on the road again to West Ashley or host Fort Dorchester.