Originally created 02/25/97

North Augusta in key contest when it plays in Irmo Tuesday



North Augusta coach Ron McKie will be going after his 100th career win tonight, but McKie has more important things on his mind.

North Augusta (14-8, 7-4 in Region 3-AAAA) will be at Irmo (18-8, 6-4) in a key Region 3-AAAA boys battle at 8 p.m. Also, South Aiken (17-6, 6-4) will attempt to snap out of its recent slump when it travels to defending Class AAAA state champion Lexington (23-2, 9-1).

Lexington wrapped up its fourth consecutive region title on Friday when it defeated Airport, 61-40, and Irmo whipped Orangeburg-Wilkinson, 38-27. Currently, Lexington has clinched a playoff spot and the region title while North Augusta and Orangeburg-Wilkinson (14-11, 7-4) are tied for second place and South Aiken and Irmo are tied for third place.

The top four teams make the playoffs. This is the final week of Region 3-AAAA play with the playoffs scheduled to start next week and the final game of the regular season for North Augusta.

"We have got to win," North Augusta coach Ron McKie said. "Looking at our situation, it will boil down to who wins our game at Irmo."

Irmo is the only team that North Augusta can win a head-to-head tiebreaker against when the season concludes on Friday. If North Augusta finishes tied in the standings with either South Aiken or Orangeburg-Wilkinson, it will lose the tiebreaker based on the Class AAAA point system.

Orangeburg-Wilkinson swept North Augusta during the regular season while South Aiken has accumulated more points than North Augusta. South Aiken only played one 3-A school, Midland Valley, while North Augusta played two 3-A schools, Strom Thurmond and Midland Valley, with losing records. Tournaments - South Aiken beating Strom Thurmond in Thoroughbred Classic, for instance - does not count in the point system.

Class AAAA schools only get three points for beating Class AAA schools with losing records. You get four points for beating a Class AAAA school or a Class AAA school with a winning record.

"We like playing Strom Thurmond and Midland Valley," said McKie in his sixth season (99-45) at North Augusta. "Those are rival games and they bring good crowds."

But the Yellow Jackets can still clinch no worse than third place and earn a playoff spot with a win over the Yellow Jackets of Irmo. North Augusta won the earlier meeting, 69-62.

"We hold our own destiny," McKie said. "If we win, we go to the playoffs."

Irmo, which has been to six of the last seven Class AAAA state championship games, does not have a player averaging in doubles figures but has won 18 games. Rob Warren, the team's lone returning starter from the 1996 state finalist squad, leads the team in scoring at 8.8 points per game.

"Even when they had (South Carolina guard) B.J. (McKie), they were like that," said McKie of Irmo. "They are very balance and they don't rely on one scorer."

South Aiken will be attempting to avenge a January 31st home loss, 39-37, to Lexington when freshman Benjamin Ryan hit a baseline shot that turned out to be the game winner late in the contest. Ryan is the younger brother of USC-Aiken point guard Thomas Ryan.

The Thoroughbreds are also fighting for their playoff lives after losing four of their last six games and three of their last five games by a combined five points.

"Physically, I know we will be ready to play," South Aiken coach Donnie Holland said. "It's the mental part I'm worried about it. We've been in a little slump lately."