For a while, coach David Stephenson's defensive strategy worked nearly to perfection.
Augusta's boys basketball team faced the tough challenge of No. 3-ranked Abilene Friday for the Orioles' home opener. The Cowboys had a much bigger, taller group of players, but the Orioles' defense befuddled them for most of the first half.
That success didn't last all game, though. Abilene's size was too much to slow down the whole game as the Cowboys, coached by former Augusta coach Terry Taylor, won big 64-50.
"We did what we could. We executed," Stephenson said of the Orioles' defensive effort. "We knew we were going to give up some stuff inside, but we worked a lot on guarding some of their sets, which are a lot like our sets. We did all right. They just kind of wore us down rebounding-wise."
Chase Winter hit a 3-pointer on a pass from Kyler Steinkamp right from the opening tip, and neither team took much time waiting to kick it into high gear. Abilene scored on some putbacks off missed shots in transition. Kolton Schenker and Connor Hurst both hit nice pull-up jump shots as the teams traded leads throughout the first quarter.
Augusta came down with seven steals in the first half, most of the which were from post entry passes that Abilene couldn't connect. The Orioles stayed aggressive to try and negate the Cowboys' size advantage.
As the game wore on, it was Abilene's depth advantage that took its toll. The Cowboys didn't lose much size with their bench players, and the putback opportunities kept creeping on Augusta. Abilene finished with 16 second-chance points and a 39-29 rebounding edge.
Augusta led 23-16 after a Schenker layup, but Abilene buckled down and had an 8-0 run and led 31-29 at halftime.
"We have a couple spurts where we let our mental focus get away," Stephenson said. "Against the No. 3 team in the state, it cost us eight points just like that."
Abilene mixed in some zone and press defenses to slow down Augusta's attack. Though the Orioles only had seven turnovers, they didn't get many clean looks at the basket. That's largely in part because of Abilene's Jacob Harms, who is 6-foot-8, and Trevor Witt, who is 6-foot-7 and came off the bench.
Steinkamp made two 3-pointers and led Augusta with 14 points. Schenker had eight. Brandon Smith had seven.
Augusta travels to play Circle Tuesday night.
Abilene 64, Augusta 50 Augusta—Kyler Steinkamp 4 4-4 14 (2), Kolton Schenker 4 0-0 8, Brandon Smith 3 1-2 7, Chase Winter 2 1-2 6 (1), Connor Hurst 3 0-2 6, Tristan Finch 2 0-0 4, Kesten Trebbe 1 1-2 3, Chase Hull 0 1-2 1, Caleb Dunn 0 1-2 1.
Augusta 48, Abilene 41. Augusta—Cole Howerton 18, Cody Wesbrooks 14, Gannon Marcotte 8, Jaden Shryock 2, Dylan Barker 2, Austin Willis 2, Preston Bevan 2.