The best Augusta Christian could do in SCISA Region 1-3A was produce three wins and finish in the tie for third place behind Hammond and Cardinal Newman.
Come state tournament time, the Lions from Georgia could not be beat.
AC opened the tourney with a quarterfinal upset of Hammond and finished an improbable title run by defeating defending champion Cardinal Newman, 59-53, in the Class 3A finale on Saturday at the Sumter County Civic Center.
It was the first basketball title for the school since crossing the state line to join the SCISA ranks in 2004.
Never miss a local story.
The X factor was Zach London, who came off the bench to score 15 points – all in the first three quarters.
“We’re a deep team, so Zach sometimes doesn't get the opportunity to shine but he has that capability and he sure gave us a big lift tonight,” said AC coach John Harris.
Cardinal Newman fell into a 17-10 hole in the first quarter as the Lions pumped in four 3-pointers – two by London. The Cards never seriously threatened the rest of the way. The closest CN would get was 34-29 at 2:12 of the third quarter. After Charles Smith missed a 3-pointer that would have pulled the Cardinals within two points, London delivered a 3-pointer that restored order for the Lions. AC built the lead back to 41-32 by the end of the third quarter.
Jordan Dengle backed London with 11 points and Nick Fortenberry and Calvin Taylor scored eight points apiece.
“The biggest difference for us in the tournament was we really picked it up defensively,” said Harris, whose team finished 22-7.
Charles Smith led Cardinal Newman (19-10) with 19 points, finishing with 75 points in the three tournament games.
Sam Lake, the other senior transfer on the team, closed out his career with 15 points on five 3-pointers.