Augusta Prep coach Mike Guthrie scanned the wall above the bleachers at the Cavaliers gym and pointed out the blank banner recognizing the school's region titles in boys basketball.
The banner soon will need updating.
The Cavaliers cut down their nets last week after defeating rival Westminster 39-34 to win the GISA Region 4-AAA title. Augusta Prep will open the GISA state tournament Thursday against Pinecrest, the No. 4 seed out of Region 1.
"It feels really good," said Cavaliers forward Julian Salazar.
After Salazar threw the ball away with the Cavaliers clinging to a two-point lead and 31 seconds remaining, he redeemed himself after a Westminster timeout by holding his ground on defense and drawing a charge on Wildcats guard Marcus Tebbs.
Augusta Prep standout Jim Hull made three of four free throws to seal the win during his final game on the Cavaliers' floor.
Guthrie urged his team to play defense after Westminster started the game on a 9-0 run. The Wildcats led by as many as seven during the second half. Augusta Prep's first lead didn't come until there was 1:43 left, when Hull converted a three-point play.
Hull scored the Cavaliers' final eight points. He finished with 29 and was named tournament MVP.
"They got the momentum," Wildcats coach Mark Tebbs said. "We stopped contesting shots and they just outplayed us down the stretch."
Only three Wildcats scored. Junior Oliver Nesges led Westminster with 17 points.
The Wildcats' big man was having his way in the post during the first half, scoring 12 points. The Cavaliers adjusted in the second half, clogging the middle and forcing the Wildcats to beat them from outside.
"We got to play defense," Guthrie said he told his team throughout the game.
"We know that you play good defense, that leads to great offense. That's exactly what happened tonight," he added.
The Cavaliers avoided an extra period in consecutive games.
Nesges was short on a 3-point attempt that would have tied the game with less than 10 seconds left. Hull collected the rebound and was fouled with a second remaining.
Augusta Prep 60, Gatewood 53 (OT)
Jim Hull scored 34 points and Augusta Prep beat Gatewood 60-53 in overtime.
The Gators did not give Hull a chance to beat them in regulation. They fouled Cavaliers guard Ryan Goss to send him to the line for a one-and-one with 16 seconds remaining and the game tied.
"I'm not that good," Goss said. "I know that. I didn't even know if we were down or tied."
Goss swished both to give the Cavaliers a two-point lead, but Gators guard Zachary Brackett answered with a layup on the other end to send the game to overtime.
In the extra period, Hull sank all six of his free-throw attempts, and the Cavaliers pulled away.
Brackett, who finished with 31 points, was held to five during the fourth quarter and overtime. The Cavaliers switched out of their zone after Brackett torched them in the first half and pressured him with point guard Joseph Hall.
"We played better defense, started picking it up," Hull said. "That's why we won -- defense."
4-AAA first round
Augusta Prep 55, Central Fellowship 42
Cavaliers sophomore John Paul Lynn led all scorers with 19 points and Augusta Prep beat Central Fellowship in the first round of the GISA Region 4-AAA tournament at Augusta Prep. The win ensured the Cavaliers of a state playoff berth.
Cavaliers senior Jim Hull, who leads the area in scoring with more than 34 points per game, was double-teamed every time he touched the ball. Augusta Prep coach Mike Guthrie's solution was to have Hull draw the defenders at the top of the key and fire the ball to Lynn on the wing, where he attacked the basket.
Lynn's stretch of six consecutive points during the fourth quarter pushed the Cavaliers' lead to 10.
"It always makes the game easier when Jim's on your team," Lynn said. "They pay so much attention to him they kind of forget about you sometimes. So I just played."
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