AIKEN --- Basketball games are often won and lost at the free throw line or the 3-point line. But Aiken's rematch with rival South Aiken Friday night was won just in front of the halfcourt line.
The Hornets, seeking to avenge a loss to South Aiken a week earlier, won 50-38 by shutting down the Thoroughbreds' offense with a menacing halfcourt trap early in the game.
South Aiken point guard Gerald Bryant wasn't available after experiencing chest pains and shortness of breath in Wednesday's game against Silver Bluff, and his absence was obvious as the Thoroughbreds struggled to move the ball up the court.
"Our game plan was to wear them down," Aiken coach Tony Harrell said. "With a team that shoots like they do, we felt like we had to take their legs away from them early."
The aggressive defense worked in terms of disrupting South Aiken's offense, but the Hornets hurt themselves when a tightly officiated game put the home team in foul trouble. Justin Maxwell, Aiken's leading scorer, picked up a technical foul with his aggressive play and Harrell eventually called off the trap, but the damage had been done to South Aiken.
"That let them back in the game," Harrell said. "But we made sure to box out in the second half."
The Thoroughbreds trailed by only four points at halftime but lost pace with Aiken early in the second half. The Hornets opened the half with a 13-1 run and allowed only three South Aiken points in the third quarter.
Aiken was content to run out of the clock in the fourth quarter, and any South Aiken attempt at a comeback was ruined by a 3 for 33 shooting performance in the second half.
"We had two focuses tonight: handling the basketball and, secondly, stopping them on offense," South Aiken coach Kelly Nichols said. "I felt like we were able to stop them, but obviously we didn't handle the ball."
Myson Jones and Tramain Parker led Aiken with 10 points apiece. The Thoroughbreds, who shot 20 percent from the field, were led by Cody Stephens' 14 points.
- The Aiken girl's basketball team cruised to a 58-27 victory over South Aiken to sweep the season series.
Lady Hornets freshman Erin Gilmore and senior Deidre Price scored 12 points each to lead the home team. Courtney Williams scored 11 points for South Aiken.
Reach Billy Byler at (706) 823-3216 or firstname.lastname@example.org.