AIKEN – A firm grip on the region’s top spot grew even tighter for Aiken on Friday night.
Another strong second half performance lifted the streaking Hornets to a 54-41 victory over rival South Aiken.
Aiken (17-1, 5-0 Region 4-AAAA) moved one big step closer to another region championship by getting past its rival for the second and last time in the regular season. While the meeting between the two is typically close, including an overtime win for the Hornets on Jan. 9, Aiken pulled away in the second half at home in front of a packed gymnasium.
“We make it interesting,” Aiken coach Darris Jackson said. “This is always a big game. I think it took both teams a little while to get adjusted, to get acclimated to the atmosphere. Once that happened, you had a pretty good basketball game after that.”
Aiken’s Jordan Lytes scored 16 points, while Calvin Mathis had 12 points and five rebounds, Antonio Bussey added 10 rebounds, and Bryson Harley picked up six points, five blocks, five rebounds and three steals.
Jackson called Harley the spark that got the Hornets going by diving for loose balls and picking up blocks and steals. That type of play pushed them past South Aiken (10-6, 3-2) in the second half by outscoring the Thoroughbreds 37-21.
“We’re a gritty team right now,” Jackson said. “We defend, we rebound. That’s kind of what we’ve been embracing here lately. We just didn’t finish well in the first half, and I thought we did a little bit of that in the second half.”
Melvin McKie led South Aiken with 14 points.
The two sides struggled offensively in the first half as South Aiken trudged to a 20-17 lead at the break.
Both teams picked up the pace to start the second half, especially Aiken, which reached a tie at 21-21 early in the third and went ahead at 24-23 on a Mathis free throw. The Hornets hit their stride midway through the third with several three-point plays, including big ones from Lytes and Kevin Williamson. Their lead was 35-30 entering the fourth.
Aiken pulled away down the stretch by scoring 19 points in the fourth while stifling South Aiken’s quick guards.
In the girls game, South Aiken jumped to an early lead and cruised to a 37-21 win over Aiken.
Aysha Scott scored a game-high 18 points for the Lady Thoroughbreds.
Reach David Lee at (706) 823-3216