NORTH AUGUSTA — Brooke Smith didn't want to get ahead of herself this season.
She stuck to keeping it one game at a time — which is nearly always so much easier said than done — and absorbed everything she could before she and her North Myrtle Beach Chiefs took a moment to realize, hey, this is turning into a pretty big run.
That run ended Monday night where so many other promising runs have for girls basketball teams over the last five years. Three-time defending Class 4A state champion North Augusta finished North Myrtle Beach's season with a 75-60 win in the third round of the playoffs, keeping the Chiefs from making their first trip to the state semifinals for the first time in decades.
"It was a good fight," Smith said. "I was very proud of them for not giving up, most importantly. If you're going to lose to a team and you're you're lose that way, it's a good way to lose considering that's a tough team. They're a very good group of girls who have a lot of weapons. We've got a lot of weapons, too, but our weapons just came up short tonight."
Seniors Jordan and Jenna Berger scored 19 and 18 points, respectively, and Daveona Hatchell added 11 as the Chiefs (22-6) fought hard early and late but ultimately couldn't book a trip to Florence for Friday's lower state championship.
"I've just completely enjoyed watching them play and what they bring," Smith said of the Berger twins, who she's coached since they were eighth-graders on the junior varsity roster. "They're very much non-verbal leaders. They lead by action, and I've just enjoyed that with them."
North Myrtle Beach pounded the offensive glass early and limited North Augusta's transition opportunities, and the Chiefs were within 14-10 late in the first quarter.
The Lady Jackets' Tyliah Burns responded with two straight three-pointers to close the quarter, and she scored all 16 of her points in the first half as North Augusta built a 41-21 lead.
North Myrtle Beach fell behind by more than 20 points in the third quarter before cutting the deficit to around 15 on multiple occasions in the fourth, keeping it close enough for Lady Jackets head coach Al Young to keep in most of his starters to finish off the game.
All five North Augusta (26-2) starters scored in double figures, led by Winthrop signee J'Mani Ingram with 20 points. The Lady Jackets will face Crestwood for another trip to Colonial Life Arena.
Replacing the Berger twins will be no small task, but the Chiefs return plenty of pieces from this run for there to be plenty of optimism that North Myrtle Beach won't be fading away anytime soon.
"Being that they get to see what the Berger twins are capable of, I think it gives them a lot of life in knowing that you don't have to be a superior athlete to come out here and play basketball as long as you work hard, and that's what those two showed," Smith said. "We do a lot of spring ball, we do a lot of summer ball, and if they come in dedicated and get in the weight room they know they have a successful future ahead of them, and that's what we're looking forward to."