AIKEN – Aiken’s depth and composure were put to the test Tuesday night.
The Hornets passed with flying colors.
Despite entering without two starters and falling behind by 10 early, Aiken fought back and ran away with the fourth quarter to beat North Augusta 62-42 in a hotly-contested region matchup.
The Hornets were without star Kevin Williamson and big man Za’zae Baltimore because of injuries, forcing the rest of the deep and talented roster to step up while role players contributed key minutes in the biggest game of the season to this point.
The result was a composed group of mostly upperclassmen that rallied from a 10-point deficit to take a third-quarter lead and scored 29 points in the fourth to pull away. The victory gave Aiken (16-1, 4-0 Region 4-AAAA) a firm grip on the region’s top spot halfway through the league slate.
“I trust these guys,” Aiken coach Darris Jackson said. “They always find a way to figure it out and pull together and find a way to get a win.”
Antonio Bussey came up big in Williamson’s absence by scoring a game-high 17 points, while Calvin Mathis produced 13 and George Williams added 11.
North Augusta (13-6, 2-2) was led by Bryson Mozone with 15 points.
The Yellow Jackets had the early edge by outscoring the Hornets 15-10 in the first and 11-10 in the second, reaching a lead as large as 10 at 26-16 with 3:20 left in the half. They led 26-20 going into the break.
Aiken went back to its identity of physical play in the paint and outscored North Augusta 13-6 in the third. Harrison Moss made a short jump shot at 1:09 to reach a tie at 30, and Moss completed a three-point play with four seconds left to take a 33-30 lead.
With momentum on its side, the Hornets blitzed the Yellow Jackets to the tune of 29 points in the fourth. Consecutive technical fouls on North Augusta in the closing minutes added four additional points on Williams free throws for a 56-39 lead, and Aiken cruised from there.
In the girls game, North Augusta continued its onslaught on the region by routing Aiken 75-13.
Sarah Crews paced the Lady Yellow Jackets with 23 points, while Amari Young and Tyliah Burns each had 14 as North Augusta moved to 17-1, 4-0.