NORTH AUGUSTA — The North Augusta girls returned most of their roster and are again rolling into the playoffs, but this year’s group is creating its own identity on the court.
The Lady Yellow Jackets enter the state tournament at 21-1 and again swept their way to a region championship at 8-0.
A lone six-point loss in a December tournament in Washington, D.C., in which they drove the day of the game and faced one of the top programs from Florida, prevented consecutive undefeated regular seasons.
The win streak is currently at 17 as North Augusta plays host to Ridge View on Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the first round of the Class AAAA playoffs.
“I think we closed out the regular season on a high note,” North Augusta coach Crystal Cummings said. “We wanted to work on some things seeing the region teams the second time around. I think for the most part the focus is here. We’ll just how it goes.”
The Lady Yellow Jackets are looking to defend their state title and entered the season with the expectations that come from returning their starting lineup and almost the entire roster. Seniors Amari Young and Sarah Crews are providing leadership and production, while junior Mya Burns and sophomore Tyliah Burns have stepped up in big ways.
Last year’s production largely came from Young, Crews and Mya Burns, while the team rode its pressure defense to a dominating state championship victory.
That intense defensive pressure is still there, but North Augusta is finding new ways to win, especially on the offensive end. The team’s points per game has increased by seven from last season and contributions are up from more players.
“I think everyone has stepped up,” Young said. “Everybody’s been stepping up and leading with a lot of different stats this year. Last year they would try to focus on me or Mya, but they can’t afford to do that this year.”
Young is averaging 16 points per game and Mya Burns is at 13, but Tyliah Burns has upped her scoring average to 13.2 while Crews continues to threaten the double-digit mark. Aaliyah Bell and J’Mani Ingram have also contributed in different phases.
Combine the increase in offense with the usual stifling defense, including four players averaging three or more steals per game, and North Augusta is again a serious threat to dominate its way through the tournament.
“We’ve gotten better over the season,” Mya Burns said. “Right now we’re supposed to be at our highest point and hopefully we play that way. We’ve worked really hard all season for this time.”
The experience of playing under the bright lights of Colonial Life Arena on the state’s biggest stage is another advantage. North Augusta handled the pressure of a state championship game by routing Wilson 61-37 in last year’s title appearance.
The ingredients are in place for another championship run at North Augusta. The focus is there to match the production and experience, and Cummings reminds them to take it one game at a time.
“For the most part the core group has been there, done that, so I hope that gives us some type of advantage going in, but you never know,” Cummings said. “On any given night, any team can get beat, so we have to stay on our game.”
Reach David Lee at (706) 823-3216 or email@example.com.