AUGUSTA — It seemed just a matter of time before Gardiner’s size and experience would catch up with Erskine on Tuesday night.

And it was. The Tigers pulled away in the second half behind senior center Connor McGuire and precocious freshman Gavin McArthur for a 70-54 win in a Class A North matchup at the Augusta Civic Center.

Gardiner is 3-1 while Erskine falls to 2-2.

McGuire finished with a game-high 26 points that included a three-pointer and four dunks. The 6-4 senior also blocked four shots, grabbed 10 rebounds and dished out four assists.

“Too much McGuire,” Erskine coach Tim Bonsant said. “Too athletic, too long. They’re picked No. 2 (in the coaches poll) for a reason and we’re picked No. 6 for a reason. They played hard tonight.”

The Eagles, who lost 6-4 center Noah Bonsant to injury before the season began, stayed in touch in the first half behind Jack Jowett (14 points) and Braden Soule (12) and trailed just 29-25. The Eagles threw up an effective zone press that forced 10 Gardiner turnovers in the first half, but the Tigers eventually figured things out with McGuire and McArthur beating it for layups.

McArthur scored 10 of his 22 points in the first half. The 6-2 freshman didn’t look a bit out of place as he added 11 rebounds, four steals and five assists.

“We’re missing two starting guards and he’s been starting for us since preseason,” Gardiner coach Jason Cassidy said. “The ability for us to play him at guard and spread the floor for our two big guys really opens them up.”

The Eagles struggled with their shooting, going just 18 for 69 from the floor, due in part to the Tigers, who switched into an effective zone in the middle periods.

McGuire scored 15 of his 26 points in the second half as the Tigers pulled away. He threw down a couple of dunks, one off a nifty pass from McArthur, who shortly added a 3-pointer from the left corner to stretch the lead to 53-33.

“We had to adapt, obviously,” McGuire said. “We still don’t have our point guard (Isaiah Magee) and our shooting guard (Kyle Johnson), but they’ve been right there with us in practice. When we’re all in there together and we’re on, I don’t think anybody can stop us.”

Magee and Johnson, who were ineligible, are expected back Monday and will allow the Tigers more defensive flexibility,

“What we lost with those two guys was our defensive intensity,” Cassidy said. “We worked on that tonight. It was better tonight than it was in the Cony game. If you defensive rebound, you get a chance to run and that was the difference in the game tonight.”

The Tigers drew effective minutes from seniors Ben Shaw (five rebounds), Cole Heaberlin and Cam Austin up front while Logan Carleton (seven points) and Luke Stevens filled in at guard.

The Eagles drew to within eight (55-47) following a 7-0 run that began with Austin Dunn’s 3-pointer and finished with two free throws from Chandler Moore. McGuire restored the lead to 15 with a 7-0 run that started with a dunk, included a three-point play and ended with a layup off a McArthur assist.

“He’s always been a really athletic kid and a good ballplayer,” Cassidy said of McGuire. “We try to run things through him. I think every team knows that. He’s really focused on winning basketball games for his team.”


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