NORTH AUGUSTA — Whenever the big lead became a shrinking one, Aiken seemed to get the key baskets.
After Aiken’s balance and box outs propelled it to a sizeable edge, Devante Butler and Shawn Moore had clutch scores to halt a Hephzibah rally in a 56-41 win Wednesday.
The victory came during the first day of action at the BI-LO Holiday Classic at North Augusta’s Riverview Park Activities Center.
“We did a real good job early,” Aiken coach Tony Harrell said. “We were getting guys open looks.”
The Hornets never trailed in the win as four players had at least two baskets in the first half, with Darius Cheatham getting three field goals in quick succession.
Though Aiken (8-3) led by 16 at the half, that cushion was eventually cut in half as Corvis Turner and Tamyrik Fields ignited a rally.
Both scored near the hoop as the Rebels pounded the ball inside.
Aiken went cold from the floor during a seven-point third quarter, missing open looks as attempts bounced off the rim before Moore connected from distance almost six minutes into the third. Moore and Butler combined for 31 points.
Lavorious Beasley tried to keep a comeback going for Hephzibah (3-6), but Butler scored on an and-one play and Moore hit another 3 before the Hornets’ defensive pressure sparked an 8-0 run late in the fourth.
Aiken used a similar run in the opening half to race out to a double-digit lead.
Cheatham aided the cause when he converted on a third-chance shot before continuing his strength inside as Aiken was up 24-10 early in the second period.
Besides holding the Rebels to one-shot offensive trips, the Hornets used ball movement and picks for good looks and also owned the glass for multiple shots on possessions.
Moore highlighted his team’s defensive strength – further proven by blocks from the likes of Devin Smith and Jordan Habersham – by responding to a missed shot with an easy layup in transition.
“We’re just not hitting shots right now,” Hephzibah coach Bob Klofenstine said. “We’re right there. Our record doesn’t indicate how good of a team we are.”