Originally created 03/10/99

Yellow Jackets upset by Wildcats



AIKEN -- During North Augusta's 25-game winning streak, the Yellow Jackets remained quiet. While everyone admired and raved about the domination of the Jackets, they remained calm because they knew it all had nothing to do with winning the state title.

What they were afraid of jumped up and bit them Tuesday night as they watched Lexington fans storm the floor after the Wildcats upset the Jackets 59-45 in the Upper State Class AAAA championship game at Aiken High School.

Everything that could go wrong went wrong for North Augusta. The Jackets suffered through a game where the Wildcats did to them everything they had done to teams for 25 games in a row.

Seniors Tyrone Walker and Sean Mims both fouled out of their final high school games. Mims left with just 13 points and Walker, a season-low five.

Lexington (22-7) moves on to the state title game on Friday night at 8:30, meeting Lower Richland at Carolina Coliseum in Columbia. Lower Richland advanced with a 69-53 victory over Socastee.

Before the game, Lexington coach Baily Harris said his team doesn't get rattled. The Wildcats answered the prediction by storming out to an 8-0 lead early in the game on 3-pointers by Ben Lee and Benjamin Ryan.

Lee led four Wildcats in double figures with a game-high 17 points as Lexington countered each Jacket charged with one of their own.

"We hit some shots early, something we haven't been able to do against North Augusta," Harris said. "They're probably the better team, but the best team doesn't always win. That's why we play these games."

As the Wildcats were all smiles much of the game, frustration set in on the Jackets. Walker, who never got in rhythm, fouled out with 2:30 left in the fourth quarter on a charge call. North Augusta coach Ron McKie then was assessed a technical foul as he stormed onto the court arguing a foul called on Randy Brown.

Lexington led 43-36 at the time of the call, but Ryan connected on two free throws and Brandon Jeffcoat hit three as the Wildcats push the lead to 48-46, seemingly putting the dagger in the Jackets.

"It was a good game, but we had to play catch up the whole time," said Mims, whose 13 points led the Jackets. "Before the game everyone was thinking about last season's game and that's where we went wrong."

"We were trying not to lose instead of trying to win and you can't do that."

The Jackets, who hadn't lost since last November, trailed the entire game, but was only behind 28-24 at the half. Walker's only field goal came on a layup that cut the margin to 29-28 early in the third quarter.

But Lee hit another 3-pointer to silence the noisy North Augusta fans and Devin Liferidge's jumper late in the quarter pushed the lead back to seven points going into the final period.

"Our kids maintained their composure even though North Augusta took some of our momentum," Harris said. "Tonight just happened to be our night, but I just can't say enough about these kids' pride."

Although Lexington wasn't expected to make it this far, they've played for the Upper State championship four of the last five years and won the AAAA title in 1996.

The depression of most of the Jackets' fans throughout the game was one of shock, but it wasn't until a minute left in the game with North Augusta down by 16 that some distraught Jackets fans left the building.

"We had a good season, and I don't think we have anything to be ashamed of," Mims said. "Lexington beat us and I wish the best of luck to them."

North Augusta ends its season with a 25-3 mark.

Patrick Green covers sports in South Carolina for The Augusta Chronicle. He can be reached at (803) 648-1395.