AIKEN --- A packed gym cheered and booed emphatically after every basket as South Aiken and Aiken traded blows Friday night in a high-energy boys basketball rivalry game.
But the fans really only needed to pay attention during a 30-second stretch in the fourth quarter to get the feel of the entire night.
In a 65-57 South Aiken win, the half-minute microcosm, which started with 3:34 left in the game, saw South Aiken's post players grab two offensive rebounds on successive trips down the court and feed outside where guards Jonathan Dingle and Cody Stephens hit back-to-back 3-pointers.
The quick surge lifted the Thoroughbreds from a five-point lead to a double-digit advantage and on to a confidence-boosting victory.
"Those offensive rebounds were huge," Stephens said. "We won this game because of our post players."
It was the backcourt duo of Stephens and point guard Gerald Bryant who supplied most of the offense for South Aiken with a combined 38 points on seven 3-pointers. But the rebounding effort from the post players, including Deon Williams and Josh Rennack, made the difference.
"It's a giant win for us," South Aiken coach Kelly Nichols said. "But it's just a step. We're big picture people. ... our goal is to be playing in March."
A win over a high-quality Class AAAA rival will have to do for the Class AAA Thoroughbreds for now. The victory came despite a five-point South Aiken deficit at halftime. The home team erased it in the first minute of the second half.
The Hornets climbed to within four points with five minutes left in the fourth quarter with a rally spurred by a Myson Jones 3-pointer, a 10-second call in the backcourt on South Aiken and a Trondell Long free throw. But South Aiken's late 30-second surge and a 6 for 7 effort at the free-throw line in the fourth quarter killed the comeback attempt.
Bryant turned in a game-high 21 points for South Aiken.