When Marty Griffin’s Augusta Christian boys squad started stealing the ball – and momentum – Tuesday night, it didn’t relent.
It was the same kind of thing the Lions head coach saw last year, when the team had stretches in which it played great basketball.
The problem a year ago was sustaining it.
On Tuesday night, that young team showed how much it’s grown in just one year’s time.
The Lions went on the road and stormed past Augusta Prep, using relentless pressure and an up-tempo attack to earn a 75-57 victory.
“That year of maturity has really helped,” Griffin said of his team, which moved to 3-0. “I think we’re able to maintain intensity for longer.
“Last year, we could go real intense for six, eight, 10 or 12 minutes of a half, then we’d lose it.”
That certainly wasn’t the case on this night.
Down 31-25 at halftime to a Cavaliers squad displaying its typical disciplined play, the Lions came out of the break quickly.
Several steals off of stifling backcourt pressure produced an 8-0 run that gave Augusta Christian a 43-39 lead entering the fourth quarter.
Once there, the Lions got another 8-0 run for a 13-point lead that proved too much for the Cavaliers (3-3) to overcome.
“Our pressure kind of wore them down, and we got out and ran better the second half,” Griffin said.
“We’ve got some pretty good athletes, and we’re pretty quick,” he added. “When our energy level’s up, it’s an exciting way to play. I think kids like to play that way.”
Nick Fortenberry finished with a game-high 17 points, and Chris Smoak-Brown added 13 for Augusta Christian. Both hit three 3-pointers, with Fortenberry showing off his range from well outside the arc.
Augusta Prep had balanced scoring; Caleb Lifsey (12 points), Nate Pylant (11) and Lang Storey (11) all had double digits.
Ben Guthrie fouled out early in the fourth quarter. He had eight points before half while helping give Augusta Prep a transition element, scoring several baskets on fast breaks.
In the girls game, Augusta Christian found itself down by two at halftime after Jamie Alexander’s buzzer-beating layup for the Cavaliers.
Then, Tori Lewis and Amaura Brandt got hot from long range.
Both made a pair of 3-pointers in the third quarter as the Lady Lions took control en route to a 51-35 win.
“They did a really good job (defending) in the first half,” said Brandt, who had 10 points. “… But then in the second half, when Tori and I got on fire, it was hard to defend.”
Lewis had 13 points, while Sha’toria Dent added 10 for the Lady Lions (2-1).
Just as Augusta Christian was gaining momentum in the third quarter, Augusta Prep (4-2) lost point guard Amanda Murphy, the team’s primary ball-handler.
The junior re-injured her surgically repaired shoulder and had to sit the rest of the way. The Cavaliers had lost guard Madeline Bacheller in the first half after a collision in the paint.
Alexander had a team-high 11 points for Augusta Prep.