Aiken coach Tony Harrell seemed unsure about what to expect from his team during Friday's "monster matchup" with Westside. After defeating the Patriots at Aiken on December 18, the Hornets had their most disappointing stretch of the season, winning 3 of 6 games over the course of two holiday tournaments. Coach Harrell wondered whether the sprained ankle of senior Dramel Coleman was partly responsible for the brief slide. But he remained optimistic that the team, knowing the quality of its opponent across the Georgia-South Carolina border, would play inspired basketball in the first game of the new year.
Harrell's optimism was warranted! After taking a 42-30 lead in the third quarter, the Hornets weathered several Westside surges to defeat the Patriots in overtime on the road. Aiken's execution and composure late in the game were particularly impressive. For example, Dramel Coleman (22 points) patiently waited for the right opportunity to attack the basket on a play late in the game. Sensing a mismatch against a defender not accustomed to defending a bigger player with the skills of a guard, Coleman deliberately drove left when he saw Westside's Frank Booker coming to double team him on his right side. Watch the play here:
And even late in the game with the lead vanishing, the Hornets continued to work together to find the shots that coach Harrell wanted for his team. Watch this series of easy baskets achieved through fundamentally sound, unselfish, pick and roll basketball.
When teams stay composed and execute, they tend to be fortunate during the game's biggest moments. After facing a four point deficit late in overtime, Aiken's leading scorer, Shawn Moore, scored on a put back after a teammate missed a free throw to give Aiken the hard fought, cross-border win in one of Friday's monster match ups. See the game deciding play here.
With a healthy Coleman and an experienced team that plays together and executes the game plan, Coach Harrell is likely to be more confident heading into Tuesday's home game versus region foe White Knoll.