NORTH AUGUSTA -- Orangeburg-Wilkinson head coach Alex Baron told his players before traveling to North Augusta on Tuesday that the 1999-2000 Yellow Jackets weren't the same squad that claimed back-to-back Region 3-AAAA basketball championships the past two seasons.
North Augusta ran through the region with a 16-0 mark last season, but begin this season 0-1 after falling to the unbeaten Bruins 70-64 on some late game heroics by Lavar Wannamaker and Norbert Rivers. Orangeburg has won its first nine games.
"I told my players before we came down here that the shoe was on the other foot now," Baron said. "North Augusta had some horses the past couple of years and they knew it. I told my team it was time for them to be a little cocky."
Still, the Jackets led through the entire game until Rivers and Wannamaker led a barrage that left North Augusta players scratching their heads. With the Bruins trailing 53-48 midway the fourth quarter, Rivers connected on his fourth 3-pointer of the game to cut the margin to two.
Wannamaker then stole a pass from Orlando Washington and ran away for the one-handed slam dunk that tied the game and brought his Orangeburg teammates off the bench. Rivers got free on the Bruins next possession and dropped another trey for the 56-53 lead.
Point guard Rufus Simpson's driving layup and foul on the next drive gave Orangeburg a six-point lead and the Jackets never recovered. Wannamaker finished with 21 points and Rivers added 17 points, highlighted by his five treys.
Anthony Young led the Jackets with 16 points.
"Norbert is a classy player, he's a shooter," Baron added. "That three-pointer to bring us within two just lifted our team. It really woke up our defense. We've been off for 11 days, so we came out a little flat. We're the more mature team now."
North Augusta's Lady Jackets knew they were in for a test when Orangeburg-Wilkinson came to town boasting an 8-1 record. Jackets coach Faye Norris wanted to see how her Jackets responded to full-court pressure and she had to be pleased for most of the game.
But all-state point guard Tasha Cook led a solid fourth quarter charge that lifted the Bruinettes to a 66-53 victory. Cook poured in 19 points and dished out nine assist as North Augusta faltered late with five turnovers in the final six minutes. The Lady Jackets had closed the gap to 31-30 at one point in the third quarter.
"I was surprised that our press breaker wasn't working for us," Norris said. "I think we showed that we could play with them, but we can't come to play some games and not others. The competition doesn't get any easier, so we've got to show up every night."
Lashonda Jefferson paced North Augusta with 17 points.
North Augusta falls to 6-2, 0-1 in the region. Orangeburg improved to 9-1, 1-0 in the region.
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