The Augusta Christian girls basketball team wasn't well during its home game with Hammond on Jan. 30.
Players were out or suffering from various stages of a virus that had swept through the team, leaving them with a thin bench and a low energy level.
But the Lions managed to hold it off. They beat the Skyhawks 57-45 Friday at home to remain undefeated in SCISA 1-AAA.
Lions coach Keith Walton substituted liberally, frequently bringing leading-scorer Elizabeth Alewine off the floor for breathers. Alewine was recovering from the effects of the virus, leaving Walton with eight players.
"Our bench was real tiny," Walton said.
But the Lions overcame it. When their lead was cut to five with 2:22 left, Alewine responded with a 3-pointer, slinging her fist on her way back down the floor. She finished with a game-high 20 points.
"It showed a lot that we can still play," said Lions point guard Lindsey Banks, who finished with 12 points.
The Lions improved to 6-0 in the region and are in a commanding position. Every other region team has at least two losses.
Augusta Christian knocked off perennial region power Heathwood Hall on Jan. 21 to gain control of the region. The Lions visit the Highlanders Feb. 10, but they hope to have the region's top seed locked up by then. A home date with Cardinal Newman on Friday should prove key.
"It looks pretty good," Banks said. "We'll be fine."
The Augusta Christian boys have managed to stay healthy, but they started the new year with a tough stretch of region losses. They've bounced back since, beating Ben Lippen on Jan. 23 and Hammond on Friday.
Augusta Christian forward Jonathan Smalley scored 22 points, and the Lions held off a late comeback attempt by the Skyhawks. The Lions led by nine with 1:45 left, but the margin was trimmed to three with 13 seconds left after two Hammond 3-pointers. Augusta Christian coach Marty Griffin preached patience in the huddle during the final timeout, and the Lions ran out the clock.
"We got a lot of help from everybody," Smalley said. "I'm just proud of the way we played."
Hammond coach Jimmy Braddock's team matched up well with the Lions' athletic starting five, but he said Smalley and the Lions' offensive rebounding was the difference.
"We knew they can shoot," said Braddock, whose team won 53-50 in the first meeting, at Hammond. "That kid had a huge game."
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