Down by 19 points in the third quarter, North Augusta coach Al Young told his players to simply keep playing.
In the fourth quarter, the Yellow Jackets did that and more.
North Augusta overcame the deficit by dominating the fourth quarter, leading to a 67-65 win over Richland Northeast in the first round of the South Carolina Class AAAA State Playoffs.
“Being down like that, and to come back, it’s unbelievable,” Young said.
With the win, North Augusta advances to the second round of the playoffs at home Saturday.
North Augusta made a barrage of 3-pointers down the stretch, scoring 34 points in the fourth quarter alone. The fourth-quarter total was more than the Yellow Jackets had the previous three periods combined.
“I thought the offense was playing slow, and they needed to speed things up,” Young said. “They were playing passive. But those shots in the fourth were big.”
TJ Sheppard led North Augusta with several of those big shots, including four important free throws in the final two minutes and the deciding shot in the final seconds. He had a game-high 20 points.
Malik Dunbar added 15, including consecutive layups between 1:26 and 1:05 in the fourth that put North Augusta ahead for the first time since the first period. Christian Davis had 12 points.
“We just wanted to get the ball,” Dunbar said. “We had to stay focused and try to get it done. It’s a confidence boost. This is a good feeling.”
Richland Northeast took its first lead on an 8-0 run to begin the second quarter and led 30-17 at halftime. Devante Anderson had 13 points at the half to lead the Cavaliers.
Anderson was shut down in the second half, scoring just two points in the final two quarters. North Augusta forced Richland Northeast to find points elsewhere, relying on outside shots that didn’t fall down the stretch.
The Yellow Jackets were down 19 midway through the third before making their slow climb back. They were down by only single digits with 4:47 left in the game, and were down by 3 with 2 minutes to go.
Dunbar’s two shots put North Augusta ahead, where the lead remained until Richland Northeast reclaimed the lead 65-64 on a Kendall Benjamin layup with 15 seconds left. North Augusta took the lead back on the next possession on a scrambling layup by Sheppard, and Davis made a free throw with 2 seconds left to seal the game.