North Augusta wasted little time showing the Augusta area why it is ranked No. 1 in the South Carolina Class AAAA preseason poll.
The Yellow Jackets opened their season by defeating Butler 61-52 in the ninth annual Augusta Thanksgiving Basketball Classic at Richmond Academy on Friday night.
The Bulldogs (3-2) were forced to fight an uphill battle all game after North Augusta stormed out to 24-9 lead near the end of the first quarter.
"We started out slowly, and that was the difference in the game," Butler coach Rob Johnson said. "The whole rest of the game, we beat them. They just outshot us."
North Augusta took a 31-19 lead into halftime. Butler, however, pulled to within five points, 37-32, late in the third quarter, but was unable to get any closer.
In the final 2:30 of the game, Butler trailed by seven points on three different occasions, but the Jackets converted 10 of 14 free throws during that period to seal the win.
Senior point guard Quentin Ferrell, a four year starter, went to the line four times during that span, hitting five of eight. Ferrell also nailed consecutive 3-pointers during the Jackets game-opening run and finished with a team-high 13 points.
"Quentin showed leadership at the end, and that's what we were looking for from him," North Augusta coach Keith Arrington said.
Sophomore guard Justin Wheeler added 12 points for North Augusta, and forward Henri Perry chipped in 11. Butler's Tyrese Harris led all scorers with 14 points.
Butler graduated all five of its starters from last year, including star point guard Willie Green.
"Butler still has a good team, no doubt about it," Arrington said. "I would think they'd do well in their region."
The first day had little drama, as North Augusta's win and Richmond Academy's 66-57 victory over Evans in the first game represented the closest contests. Jacob Ross led Richmond Academy with 21 points, as the Musketeers overcame eight 3-pointers by Evans - including five by Kenny Garnett - who paced the Knights with 19 points.
George Brown scored a game-high 19 points for Glenn Hills as the Spartans knocked off short-handed Laney 71-59. Several of the Wildcats' key players, including J.K. Sabb and Rod Briscoe, were playing in the school's second-round Class AAA football playoff game next door at ARC Stadium.
Savannah defeated Cross Creek 57-41, and Josey topped Allendale-Fairfax, the top-ranked team in South Carolina Class AA, 47-30. Jesse Robinson scored 21 points for Allendale-Fairfax.
The tournament concludes today with five games, starting at 2 p.m.
Reach Lane Kramer at (803) 648-1395, Ext. 106.