As the festivities began Friday for the 12th annual Thanksgiving Basketball Classic presented by the 100 Black Men of Augusta, Inc., the fan-friendly slam dunk contest was one event being held today.
Had the judges been present for Butler's opening game Friday afternoon, however, the contest might have already been decided by 5-foot-11 guard Antron Carter.
"I caught (the pass), and I threw it to Reggie (Middleton) on the give-and-go," Carter said. "He tossed the thing up, and I'm a high flyer, so I just went up and got it."
Carter's third quarter acrobatics capped off a Bulldogs aerial attack that began from the opening tip-off, culminating in an 87-50 victory over undermanned Strom Thurmond in front of a strong Bulldogs' following at Richmond Academy.
The state playoff success of the Strom Thurmond football squad made for a tough afternoon for first-year coach Bo Rouse, as the Rebels (0-1) played without four starters and nine players overall.
"Like I told these guys, the football players might not ever come out, so we can't depend on that," Rouse said. "But when they come back, I tell you what, it's going to be a different game."
The Bulldogs (3-0) took advantage early and often, creating numerous turnovers. The defensive effort allowed Butler to convert the majority of their points in transition, producing a 44-22 halftime advantage.
"I don't care what level you're at, if somebody dunks the ball, the crowd enjoys it," Butler coach Rob Johnson said. "We try to start fast, try to get the players into it from the start to control the tempo."
Butler forward Austin Steed, who has already committed to South Carolina, put together a dominant performance in the paint, finishing with 17 points. Carter added 15 points. Steed controlled the game on both ends of the court.
"I felt real comfortable," Steed said. "The guards came inside and did their part, getting the ball inside. We just feed off each other, and everybody plays well."
Lost in the Bulldogs' performance was the play of Rebels' forward Marquin Pickens, who had a strong effort inside to finish with 13 points.
Butler faces Cross Creek at 4:30 p.m. today, while Strom Thurmond rounds out the tournament schedule against North Augusta at 8 tonight.
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