The loudest cheers for the Ridgeland High School girls basketball team came after the Jaguars had left the court.
They didn't come during Ridgeland's 53-24 win over Hardeeville, bur rather prior to the boys game, when the entire team came out to sing the Star Spangled Banner.
Maybe that's because the Jaguars have few surprises left to show on the hardwood. Ridgeland's 29-point blowout of the Hurricanes gave the Jaguars an immaculate 14-0 record in Region 5-A heading into the Class 1-A playoffs.
"I think this team is coming into their own," Ridgeland coach Frederick Toomer said.
The next step for the Jaguars is Monday, when Ridgeland will begin its defense of last season's state championship. Toomer expects the Jaguars to host St. Johns. They would face the winner of Scott's Branch and Latta on Thursday, should they advance that far.
If Ridgeland keeps rolling past opponents like it did on Wednesday, the Jaguars will be headed back to Columbia for a shot at a repeat. Four wins will get Ridgeland back to the Capital City while a fifth victory gives it another state title.
"The main goal (this year) was to defend the title," Toomer said. "Not to just come out and have a letdown this year because of who may have graduated."
The Jaguars -- who clinched a second straight region title last week -- struck early against Hardeeville. NyJae Boozer led the way with 12 points and 15 rebounds while April Jenkins once again paced Ridgeland with 13 points of her own.
Aaliyah Hill led the Hurricanes with 13 points.
Ridgeland girls 53, Hardeeville 24
Hardeeville -- Aaliyah Hill 13, Ziaira Doe 4, Sapatra Johnson 2, Jamie Chisolm 2, Shakira Grant 2, Diamond Bonaparte 1
Ridgeland (19-4, 14-0 Region 5-A) -- April Jenkins 13, NyJae Boozer 12, Matesha Stevenson 12, Teleatha Dopson 8, Tiara Nelson 5, Tierra Green 2, Zana McCall 1
Ridgeland boys 67, Hardeeville 49
The Ridgeland boys basketball team wasn't concerning itself with the jumbled standings in Region 5-A. All the Jaguars cared about was taking care of rival Hardeeville and going from there.
Tyron Mikell's 11 first-half points helped Ridgeland claim a nine-point halftime advantage before the Jaguars used a big third period to put the clamps down on an important 67-49 region victory.
Jeremiah Nelson added 10 more for the Jaguars while Hurricanes guard Aljaray Manuel led all scorers with 20 points.
With the win, the Jaguars helped keep pace in a muddled region. Ridgeland will have to take the court again Friday at Allendale-Fairfax against Whale Branch to determine the No. 3 seed in the region, according to Warriors coach Linc Lyles. But Ridgeland coach Jeremiah Faber said he thought it should be a three-way tie along with Bethune-Bowman, due to head-to-head outcomes.
But however that shakes out, the Jaguars are still in the playoffs. And that's what matters to Mikell and his teammates.
"We're going to see where we stand," Mikell said. "We'll play hard and go to the playoffs."
Hardeeville (6-15, 3-11 Region 5-A) -- Aljaray Manuel 20, Rico Bolden 9, Garretson Seeden 6, Deonte Waiters 6, Nazair Wilson 3, Shemar Taylor 2, Richard Garvin 2, Diquan Johnson 1
Ridgeland (13-9, 10-4) -- Tyron Mikell 13, Jeremiah Nelson 10, Torray Amlett 9, Terrance Frazier 9, Derrick Solomon 6, Maurice Dargon 5, Charles Mitchell 4, Anthony Polite 4, Xavier Caper 3, Aaron Taylor 2, Hamilton Harris 2