The Augusta Christian Schools boys basketball team finally broke its Brentwood School jinx last week at the Lions Den.
The Lions topped the Eagles 60-56 Friday night and bested their Region 4-AAA rival for the first time since the 1998-99 season.
"It was really a big game for us mentally, because nobody on our varsity has beaten Brentwood in the regular season," AC coach Andrew Bryan said. "It wasn't necessarily getting a monkey off our backs, but that was a big win."
Augusta Christian entered the contest with a 12-0 record and a No. 1 Class AAA ranking in the Georgia Independent Schools Association, while Brentwood came in with a 7-5 record.
But the numbers didn't mean a thing, because Brentwood has had AC's number for the past two seasons.
Augusta Christian took an early 11-1 lead, behind strong play from Lee Jones and Jordan Belcher. The Lions went for the kill by applying a full-court press, but the plan backfired.
Brentwood's guards split the press at midcourt, then began passing inside from the wing and drawing fouls. The Eagles eventually tied the game at 13, and when Belcher was sidelined in the second quarter with his third foul, the Lions looked lost.
"I was excited with the way we played at first, but we got lax when we got the lead," Jones said.
The Eagles hit 15 of 19 free throws in the first half and also dominated inside. Brentwood's 24-14 edge on the glass, along with sharpshooting at the line, allowed the Eagles to forge a 40-34 lead at the break.
"We got an earful in the locker room about the rebounding. We're a whole lot taller then they are," Jones said. "They were getting too many easy baskets so we had to revert to a zone to contain them."
The zone worked wonders - AC whittled the lead to 43-41, then Jones recorded a steal and dished an assist to Belcher, who hit the shot and was fouled. Belcher completed the three-point play to give the Lions a 44-43 lead.
Scott Bodden (six points and four rebounds in the second half) and Mark Herrmann (four rebounds plus a clutch tip-in) began muscling inside, and Cole Rabun contributed a precise pass to Belcher, who notched another three-point play to put AC up 52-46.
Brentwood made one final push to tie it at 56, but Belcher forced a turnover and Jones later stole a pass to thwart the Eagles. Belcher and Jones set the final margin with clutch free-throw shooting.
"Ever since I've been in ninth grade, we've been doing the exact same thing against Brentwood," Belcher said of the tense finish. "This is what we look forward to, to see what type of team we are by how we play in the second half. We never gave up."
Jones finished the night with a game-high 26 points and Belcher added 17.
Augusta Christian followed up the Brentwood game with a 58-46 victory Saturday at Pinewood Christian Academy, but moving to 14-0 on the road was made possible by picking up win No. 13 Friday night at AC.
"Knowing we haven't beaten them in the last two years, we wanted this game really bad," Jones said after getting past Brentwood. "We showed a lot of heart to come back in the second half. That showed what we're about. We're just making a name for ourselves."
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