Trailing by 10 with just under six minutes to play, the Lions tied the contest at 64 with just under two minutes to go. The Cardinals scored four consecutive points and made free throws the rest of the way, however, holding off the Lions 74-69.
The Cardinals (10-8, 2-0 Region 1-AAA) got a standout performance from their soon-to-be Clemson Tiger Austin Ajukwa, who led all scorers with 32 points. With the Lions leading 18-13, Ajukwa made a 3-pointer at the end of the first quarter, sank a second trey at the beginning of the second and then shook free for two monster jams as his 10-0 run gave the Cardinals a 23-18 lead.
“There was a stretch in the second quarter when we gave up two breakaway dunks and we kind of freaked out a little bit,” said Lions coach Marty Griffin, whose squad fell to 13-3, 1-2. “The story of the game was second- chance points, and we’re shorter than most of the teams in our region and we’ll have to deal with that.”
Cardinals post player Joe Armstrong was the main culprit, getting most of his 25 points in the paint.
The Lions used their athleticism to fight through the trio of 6-foot-5 players and sank seven 3-pointers to stay in the game. Nick Fortenberry hit two and led the Lions with 23 points, Jacob Greenway (13 points) had two from long range and Tyquan Burns had 10 points.
In the girls game, the tandem of Anna Motes and Kymmya Thomas was too much for the Lady Cardinals as Augusta Christian jumped out to an early lead and went on to win 41-31.
With Augusta Christian leading 7-4, Thomas grabbed three consecutive defensive rebounds and fed Motes for fastbreak layups on which she was fouled. Motes, who led all scorers with 23 points, converted two of the three three-point-plays, stretching the lead to 15-4 and the Lady Cardinals (5-8) would not get any closer than seven .
“We knew coming in we were the quicker team and they had us on size, so we wanted to get out and run,” coach Nick Isaac said.
The Lady Cardinals started getting easy baskets down low in the third, and trailed by 10 after Thomas grabbed a defensive rebound with five seconds left in the third.
She fed Motes on the right sideline and her 30-footer with no time on the clock gave the Lady Lions (8-9, 1-2 Region 1-AAA) a 36-23 advantage.
“I turned to my assistant coach and s aid that right there is a backbreaker,” Isaac said.