It has the makings of what could be one of the state's best high school basketball games this season. When North Augusta travels to Columbia today to face Irmo, a lot will be at stake.
It will be a battle of the Yellow Jackets, the state's No. 4 team versus No. 5, North Augusta's 13-game winning streak versus the noisy crowd at Irmo, not to mention Irmo's slow-tempo offense against the Yellow Jackets' fast-breaking style.
But to North Augusta coach Ron McKie, the 8 o'clock game is more simple than all of that.
"This is just another conference game on the road that we need to win," he said. "It does put us in the driver's seat if we win, but this game doesn't make or break our season."
Both North Augusta and Irmo go into tonight's matchup undefeated at 4-0 in Region 3-AAAA, along with Lexington. North Augusta comes off a 44-33 victory over Dutch Fork and Irmo handed Aiken a 47-29 thumping.
McKie is well aware of Irmo and its style of play.
"They try to slow the game down and wear down your defense," McKie said. "And without a shot clock, it can really get frustrating."
In rolling to its 13-0 record, North Augusta has been using a suffocating defense and an explosive offense, led by seniors Tyrone Walker and Sean Mims.
Recently, opponents have geared their defenses into stopping Walker from getting the ball inside, allowing Mims and North Augusta's talented backcourt to bomb away from the outside. Against Airport, the Yellow Jackets connected on 12 3-pointers, and McKie forsees tonight's matchup to be the same.
"They're definitely going to try and make us beat them from outside," McKie said. "They are a fundamentally sound team and we just have to try and make shots early and hope to get up on them."
The last time McKie said that, North Augusta jumped on Airport 20-0. And although he's quite sure Irmo won't be that kind, he hopes to leave Columbia with his team's winning streak intact and at least a share of first place.
"It'll be a tough one to win, but it's one that we can win." McKie stated. "Our guys just have to know that no matter what happens tonight, we've still got more regional games to play."
Patrick Green covers sports in South Carolina for The Augusta Chronicle. He can be reached at (803) 648-1395.