As its lead shrank during the second half Friday, the Beaufort High School girls basketball team could have reverted to its old ways.
The Eagles had not won a region game in longer than most could remember. They were winless in league play last season.
And so when Ashley Ridge chipped away at what was a comfortable lead, the discomfort started in the stands and on the Eagles' bench.
But Beaufort High proved a different team than recent times. The Eagles, behind the strong post play of Ebony Watson, held on for a 48-39 victory.
"We were rebounding," Watson said. "We got the ball to teammates and made open layups."
Watson made nine of 12 free throws, all during the second half, to help Beaufort High stay on top. She finished with 15 points. Her five-rebound total per the final statistics sheet seemed low, Eagles coach Lillian Keeler Aldred said. She said she would check video for rebound totals.
Beaufort High led by 13 at the half and pushed its advantage to as many as 15 during the third quarter. Ashley Ridge worked back, countering Watson's inside presence with Brianna Boyd, who matched her with 15 points.
Boyd's three-point play brought Ashley Ridge within seven with seven minutes left. Her basket with three minutes left brought Ashley Ridge within seven again. But Watson and point guard Arielle McPhee made all their free throws in the final minute to ice it.
"They held on to it until the end," Aldred said. "That's promising."
The Eagles (8-6, 1-1 Region 8-AAAA), who dropped their region opener to Colleton County, did a better job Friday getting the ball inside, Aldred said. Watson worked off the block. McPhee handled the ball when Beaufort High needed to protect it.
Watson said the Eagles had talked about their not-so-flattering mark from last season, that improving on the winless mark had become a priority. It only takes one, they said.
"Any win's a good win," Aldred said. "We'll take it."
Beaufort High plays Bluffton today in a non-region matchup. The Eagles pulled out a close one the first meeting.
Beaufort High (8-6, 1-1 Region 8-AAAA) -- Ebony Watson 15, Mykalah Smalls 9, Arielle McPhee 10, Veneshia Holmes 6, Paris Smith 4, Jay Shaw 4
Ashley Ridge (5-8, 0-1 Region 8-AAAA) -- Brianna Boyd 15, Aasima Walker 11, Chekerra Goodwine 6, Shelby Daly 3, Desirae Brown 2, Ericka Millen 2
Beaufort High boys 71, Ashley Ridge 50
Beaufort High returned strong this week after an emotional loss to rival Battery Creek the week before. The romp Friday was the Eagles' second to open region play, following Tuesday's victory over Colleton County.
Coach Bruce Beasley's team shot well from the outside -- making a season-high nine 3-pointers -- crashed the boards and kept its cool as Ashley Ridge melted down during the second half. The Eagles led by 20 at the half and were not threatened. Ashley Ridge was whistled for an intentional foul and a technical during the fourth quarter.
Beaufort High players wore smiles, closing the game with a failed alley-oop attempt and another rim-rattler that failed to go down.
Beasley said the Eagles needed to work on their shot selection but otherwise played a complete game. The sting of the Battery Creek loss is gone, he said.
"We don't even think about that," he said. "That wasn't a setback. That was a set-straight."
Beaufort High (11-3, 2-0 Region 8-AAAA) -- Dymonte Gwathney 21, Simeon Daise 12, Jordan Adderly 11, Rakeem Palmer 7, Joey Chaplin 6, Ruben Francis 4, Keith Alston 4, Tyrone Holmes 4, Jordan Broussard 2
Ashley Ridge (9-7, 0-1 Region 8-AAAA) -- Romelo Doctor 12, Tre DeLoach 10, Khalil Davis 8, Frankie Heyward 6, Clark Batts 4, James Biggs 3, Fred Weeks 3, AZ Walker 2, Chris Redd 2