Jackets roll into tournament play
The North Augusta High School boys basketball team is red hot right now.
The Jackets (7-2) took care of business on the road at Strom Thurmond, thumping the Rebels 66-38. The team was led by Malik Dunbar, who scored 20 points in the contest. Jaquez Smith was the next in line with 13, Christian Davis had 11, and both Chandler Harrison and Keyon West had 10. It was the type of even scoring effort that has been what head coach Al Young’s teams have hung their hats on.
The team followed up that contest with a 54-46 win over Greenbrier, also on the road. The difference in that matchup was the second half, where the Jackets were able to speed up the tempo. Victor Johnson and Davis both had 16 points and Dunbar had 13.
“I still think there is a lot of room for improvement,” Young said. “I certainly don’t want to peak now. I don’t think we are at our best. We have to continue to work and the biggest thing is to make sure we stay sharp mentally. We need to close games out the right way. As we continue to play, and get to our region competition, things will get a lot tougher.”
Young said that Harrison was a player who has “improved an awful lot” and “unless you pay real close attention you don’t see all the things he’s doing for us.”
“He’s been real strong on the boards, he’s getting to the basket and making tough shots and he’s playing really well defensively,” Young said. “I think it’s great that his game overall has improved tremendously and he’s going to be a big part of what we do. I love that he’s so aggressive on the boards, can shoot jump shots, is physical and he’s rebounding well.”
Dunbar, in addition to Harrison, provide a strong foundation and are only juniors.
“He has all of the physical tools,” Young said of Dunbar. “He just can’t rush and he needs to take care of himself. Sometimes his shots are off-balance, so I think he needs to make sure his fundamentals are there. I think because he has so much ability he tries to overdo things. Athletes like that, in my opinion, tend to try and do too much instead of letting the game come to them. It will come to him, and I think if he becomes more selective that he will be more consistent, but he’s certainly a tremendous player.”
Dunbar said the team’s hot start can be attributed to setting up plays.
“I feel like we’re setting up plays to get each other open and moving and setting screens to get open,” he said. “It puts us in a great position, we’ve been winning and I feel like that’s a great confidence boost to start the tournament.”
The tournament that Dunbar is speaking of is the upcoming Lake Marion Invitational Tourney, in Socastee, which will run Thursday through Saturday. Young said that he believes the team’s first round matchup is against Colleton County from Walterboro.
For his part, Dunbar is looking forward to the experience.
“We’re going to make a lot of noise we are going to play hard and get the job done,” he said.
Scott Rodgers is the news editor at the North Augusta Star and has been with the paper since January 2013 after previously working at the Aiken Standard. Follow him on Twitter @NAStarRodgers.