The time to "win or go home" is at hand for several local basketball players, and North Augusta High School's girls entered this week in their customary perch, as one of the state's top squads.
The four-time defending state champions, playing at home Feb. 20 in the first playoff round, stomped May River 64-18, which paved the way for a second-round game Feb. 24 at North Myrtle Beach. Kiana Lee turned in a double-double versus May River, with 18 points and 10 rebounds, as North Augusta, coached by Al Young, improved to 15-1.
That evening's other North Augusta leaders included Zuri Goldsberry, who scored 16 points, and Celena Grant, with eight points and 13 rebounds. Their squad, ranked third in the state to begin this week, led by 16 at the half before nailing the "W" down with a 20-2 third quarter.
North Augusta's boys, coached by Tony Harrell, narrowly missed a playoff spot despite having won on the road Feb. 12 versus Hampton (of Hampton County), by a 59-52 tally. The Jackets wound up with Colin Rodrigues (averaging 15 points and four rebounds per game) and Austin Harrell (10 points and three assists on average) both winning all-region honors.
Other big data came from Amarri Wilcher (eight points and two assists), Jordan Wilburn (seven points and seven rebounds) and Naijah Buchanan (six points and seven rebounds). They wrapped up the season at 9-7 overall and 5-3 in region action.
Coach Owen Jacobs, leading Fox Creek's girls, saw his squad reach the first round of postseason play. The Predators lost on the road Feb. 22 versus Camden (described as "amazing" by one local observer), to the tune of 75-14, and wound up at 8-10 overall and 5-1 in Region 5-AAA.
Karis Bullard was Fox Creek's top scorer for the season, averaging 10.2 points per game going into the Camden contest. Next were Zykeria Valentine, at 9.5 (along with a team best 2.2 average in assists), and Caryssa Harris-Luke, at 9.0. Phebe Nevils led in rebounding, at 7.2 per game, and Bree Wright followed at 7.1. Bullard, Valentine and Wright were honored as all-region competitors.
Fox Creek's boys, coached by Andrew Peckham wound up their season at 6-7 overall and 0-4 in the region. The team's top 2020-21 performers included all-region honoree Jadon Johnson, with 10.5 points and 3.9 assists per game, and Chandler O'Bannon, with a team-best average of 8.1 rebounds and a team-best season total of six blocks.
Peckham's bunch reached the second round of the region tournament and was bounced out by Brookland-Cayce 64-38 in a road contest Feb. 15. The consolation game for the region, however, went in Fox Creek's favor, with Tyler Stampley hitting a jumper with one second left to secure a 41-40 win Feb. 17 at Swansea.