Looking to get a jump on its competitors in the Georgia Independent School Association Region 4-AAA standings, the Augusta Prep Cavaliers faced a tall task Saturday.
The Cavaliers opened region play at home taking on GISA Class AAA defending state champion Bethesda Academy. With its 12-point lead about to disappear, the Cavaliers used a late 11-5 run to pull away for the 59-49 victory.
“It was a big win,” said senior point guard Ben Guthrie. “They don’t have all the players they had last year, they don’t have that team, but they still have a good team and they’re still going to be contenders for region champion, state champion.”
Guthrie scored 13 points for the Cavaliers (7-4), perhaps none bigger than the ones when the Blazers (9-3) moved to within 48-44 with 3:30 to play. Guthrie took a pass from Caleb Lifsey in the lane, hit a layup while being fouled and sank the free throw, building the lead back to seven.
That play typified the kind of game the Cavaliers played from the outset as they attacked the Blazers’ aggressive 2-3 zone patiently, finding cutters for layups. They also did an excellent job of controlling the boards, limiting the Blazers to just one shot while taking advantage of second-chance opportunities.
“Today they did a great job of listening and getting the ball to each other and taking care of the ball and playing a full game more than anything else,” said head coach Mike Guthrie. “We played a full game today and we played an excellent fourth quarter and it made a huge difference.”
The frontcourt of Michael Downing, Caleb Lifsey and Rafay Chaudray dominated down low throughout the game. Downing sank nine of 10 free throws en route to a team-high 21 points, while Chaudray and Lifsey had nine and eight points, respectively.
“We played well together the whole game, especially coming out of the second half and we wanted to keep up the intensity,” said Lifsey. “Hopefully we’ll just keep up this momentum in the region and go into state and try to do something.”
Trailing the Blazers 26-25 at the half, the Cavaliers took over in the third period as five different players helped outscore the Blazers 15-5. Leading 30-28, Spencer King and Jack Owen hit back-to-back 3-pointers, Guthrie made layups on consecutive possessions and the lead was quickly 40-28.