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Augusta’s Sean Brandenburg shoots in the first quarter Friday night at Circle. Marc Browning/ The Wichita Eagle | Buy this photo

Augusta offense overwhelms Circle

Published Feb. 14 at 11:27 p.m. | Last updated Feb. 14 at 11:29 p.m.

Augusta blended its inside game and outside game Friday night, keeping Circle continually off-balance for an 82-65 victory.

The Orioles (12-4, 5-1 AV-CTL IV) efficiently worked the ball inside to seniors Brandon Smith and Kyler Steinkamp to get an early lead, then another senior, reserve Dustyn McEachern, came in and hit two of his four three-pointers, putting more distance between Augusta and the Thunderbirds (9-7, 3-3).

Augusta’s victory sets up a shot next Tuesday for the Orioles to avenge their only Division IV loss when they play host to Andale, which is undefeated in league. Augusta dropped a 53-28 decision on Dec. 20 at Andale. In that game, Smith was held scoreless and McEachern managed just six points.

The Orioles said they’ll be better prepared this time. They stated a good case for that against Circle. Each time the Thunderbirds appeared to get on a roll, they would either commit a turnover or Augusta would hit a key field goal.

“We just got off to such a good start offensively,” Augusta coach David Stephenson said. “We hit shots, and Dustyn hit some threes for us. Brandon got some easy looks, and when we’d miss the shot, we’d get the offensive board.”

McEachern wasn’t limited to just shooting beyond the arc. He hit seven of eight free throws in the fourth quarter to help Augusta in control of the game.

“Once the threes started falling, I knew they’d come down on me stronger, so I’d just penetrate, and I knew (Smith) would be open and I could dish it off to him, and he finishes really well.”

But McEachern likes getting the long, open shot.

“I love opportunities, any time in the game, I’m ready,” he said.

He said he was surprised at the ease the Orioles displayed in getting a victory on a hostile court.

“They’re always pretty tough,” he said. “Loud atmosphere, and it’s pretty hot. Sometimes we don’t play as well, but (Friday) we played really well.”

Stephenson said the first half was crucial.

“We just kind of held on in the second half – there’s some stuff we can work on there,” he said. “We did really well offensively, everything was flowing. We made great passes for easy looks, and we hit shots.”

He said he liked the effort McEachern gives the Orioles off the bench.

“That’s Dustyn; he’s our spark off the bench,” Stephenson said. “When he goes in, it’s just easy for me to run a play or two for him.”

Circle first-year coach Bo Horyna said McEachern’s shooting was the key.

“He shot the ball really well (Friday),” Horyna said. “Every time we’d make a little bit of a run, he’d knock down a three or he’d get some free throws. They ended up with eight threes on the night; that’s tough to overcome.

Senior Dylan Driver led Circle with 25 points.

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AUGUSTA – Steinkamp 11, Hurst 14, Brandenburg 12, B. Smith 17, Carter 9, McEachern 19.

CIRCLE – Kirkpatrick 8, Driver 25, Cannon 11, J. Smith 6, Fowler 8, Hartley 3, Horyna 2, Wright 2.