The Beaufort boys basketball team claimed the Region 8-AAA championship with a 66-63 win over Orangeburg-Wilkinson on the road Thursday night.
The Eagles trailed by 10 in the fourth quarter before mounting a furious rally. A Kameron Jenkins bucket gave the Eagles a 64-63 lead before Henry Jones sank two free throws to seal the win.
Jenkins, Monty White and Dajour Cleveland led the Eagles with 14 points each, while Marcus Owens and Matt Garay added eight each.
Beaufort will host Aiken at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the first round of the Class 3-A playoffs.
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The Eagles, in a three-way tie at the top of the region heading into Thursday’s play, held the tiebreakers and knew a win meant the region title, the team’s first since 2011, and the coveted No. 1 seed in the playoffs
“It’s huge,” Beaufort head coach Nate Livesay said. “If you’re the No. 1 seed, you’re at home as long as you stay alive until the games go to neutral sites.”
The season has been up and down for Beaufort. The Eagles started 6-8, 1-2 in 8-AAA before finishing 12-9, 7-3.
But Thursday’s win ran contrary to the norm for this season. The Eagles have struggled, said Livesay, to start and close games all year.
But this time, Beaufort got off to a big start.
“(Then they) dominated the second and third quarters,” Livesay said. “But our guys kept fighting, and we didn’t take our last lead until there was under a minute left to play.”
The Eagles overcame a speed bump when point guard White fouled out late in the game. But James stepped in and hit some big free throws at the end.
“It’s gratifying as a coach to see how far we’ve come,” Livesay said. “They’re learning to improve their focus, mental toughness and resiliency to fight through when things aren’t going well. They dealt with some major foul trouble.”
Livesay believes the Eagles are just beginning to live up to their potential.
“We’re still just scratching the surface,” he said. “It takes a long to time to get kids to understand what it takes to be good and win.
“I think we’re just learning what it takes to win.”