Butler knew it was going to have to go through some growing pains this season with a young core of players. The first ache was felt Friday.
Sloppy play and a second-half collapse led to a 69-54 season-opening loss to North Augusta during the first day of the 100 Black Men of Augusta Thanksgiving Classic at Richmond Academy.
"I'm very disappointed," said Butler coach Emmett Rouse, who is in his first season back on the Bulldogs' bench. "We turned (the ball) over a lot and right now we just can't find the chemistry that we're looking for."
Butler, which plays mainly underclassmen, appeared to be pressing early in the game, committing a rash of turnovers and taking several ill-advised shots. The Bulldogs' poor play, however, was matched by the Yellow Jackets.
After leading by a point at the end of the first quarter, Butler stretched its lead to 10 in the second. Then North Augusta got hot, rallying to take a two-point lead at halftime.
The Yellow Jackets carried the momentum into the second half, outscoring Butler 28-12 in the third quarter. Junior point guard Austin Davis scored 11 of his game-high 18 points in the quarter to help North Augusta pull away.
North Augusta also faced adversity in its season-opener. The team has only practiced together as a full unit for four days because of the football team's playoff run. Guard Jessie Pernell, a wide receiver on the football squad, said North Augusta's talent helped nullify the lack of preparation.
"We have a lot of athletes on this team, so it wasn't too hard for us. Coach (Al) Young did a good job of helping us get prepared for this game so we just came out and played the best we could," said Pernell, who scored 13 points.
One bright spot for Butler was freshman Ronald Jones. The 6-foot-5 forward was solid on the boards and finished with a team-high 10 points.
Butler and North Augusta will be back in action this afternoon. The Bulldogs take on Aiken at 1 p.m., while the Yellow Jackets face Aquinas at 4:30.
Reach Joey Jones at (706) 823-3304 or firstname.lastname@example.org.Box scores, today's schedule/2B
JACKIE RICCIARDI/STAFF North Augusta's LJ Perry (left) guards Butler's Ronald Jones in Friday's game at Richmond Academy. Jones, a freshman, had 10 rebounds.