Georgia College downs Jaguars in PBC Tournament opener

Rafael Monteiro (22) goes up for two of his 19 points in the PBC quarterfinal loss to Georgia College. (photo by Viraj Bulla)

By Carlos Rodriguez |
Sports writer

The Augusta University men’s basketball team suffered an 85-75 loss to Georgia College in the first round of the Peach Belt Conference Tournament on Wednesday, March 4, at Christenberry Fieldhouse.

AU (21-8, 16-4) was seeded as the No. 2 team in the tournament while Georgia College (14-15,10-10) was seeded No. 7. The win was the Bobcats first conference tournament win since 2009. With the loss, Augusta’s 10-game winning streak came to an end.

Jaguar senior Rafael Monteiro led with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Off the bench, sophomore Darren Lucas-White scored 18 points. Sophomores Tyshaun Crawford, Tyree Myers and Miguel Arnold scored 11 points each.

“He played good in the second half,” said AU head coach Dip Metress of Monteiro. “He played with energy the whole game.

Crawford started the game off scoring inside in the first minute. Crawford and Georgia College’s Chris Parks traded buckets as both teams went back and forth, tying the game seven times and exchanging leads. The last tie came after Myers knocked down two free throws to tie the game at 14 with 11:33 remaining. The Bobcats took the lead on the next possession after Justin Cave knocked down a basket. They would go onto hold the lead the rest of the half.

Brandon Thomas gave Georgia College a 25-18 lead after knocking down a long three-pointer with 8:57 remaining. The Bobcats took their first double-digit lead of the game after Christian Koneman knocked down a three-pointer with under four minutes left to play. The next possession, Georgia College took their biggest lead of the game at 37-24 after Koneman knocked down another three with 3:26 remaining.

Koneman, a 6-foot-7 sophomore, didn’t play in the last game of the regular season against AU due to being involved in a car accident days before the game.

“We were very fortunate to have him back,” said GC Coach Mark Gainous. “He wasn’t able to play in the previous game, which hurt our depth. He’s probably our best shooting forward.”

With under two minutes left to play, Arnold trimmed GC’s lead to 37-30 after making a jumper on one possession then the next cutting inside and converting on a layup. Monteiro hit a free throw in the final second to cut the Bobcats lead to 37-33 heading into the half.

Crawford led the Jags with 10 points and Monteiro added seven. Parks and Jordan Thomas both had eight a piece for Georgia College.

Georgia College shot 41.7 percent from three and 50 percent from the field. Augusta shot 46.7 percent from the field and struggled at the three-point line with no makes. Georgia College also shot 85.7 percent from the free-throw line compared to AU’s 50 percent.

Wesley Simpson started off the second half with a three-point basket for Georgia College. Monteiro got those three-points back after converting on an and-one layup, cutting GC’s lead to 40-36 with 18:35 to play. A minute later, Monteiro tied the game up at 40 after grabbing an offensive rebound and putting it back up for two points.

The next possession, Myers drove through the lane and put in a layup high off the glass to give AU a 42-40 lead, their first of the game since the beginning of the first half. Lucas-White, who had 14 second-half points, gave AU a 46-42 lead with under 15 minutes to play after hitting a reverse layup. Brandon Thomas tied things up at 49 after converting on an and-one layup with 11:39 remaining.

With 9:42 remaining, Myers inbound the ball and found Monteiro open under the basket, who converted the layup, putting AU up 56-52. The Bobcats regained the lead with under seven minutes left to play after Koneman knocked down this third triple of the game, putting GC up 62-61. The Bobcats followed that with two more three-pointers coming from Jordan Thomas and another one from Koneman as they went up 68-61 with 4:12 left to play.

GC increased their lead to 73-62 after Brandon Thomas made two free throws with under three minutes left to play. The Jags cut the lead to 80-73 after Troy Cracknell converted on an and-one layup in the final minute of play. With time running down AU was forced to foul and send GC to the line and the Bobcats knocked down the majority of their attempts, securing their first conference tournament win in over a decade.

“We had zero energy in the first half. We took uncharacteristic shots, missed some free throws,” said Metress.

Brandon Thomas led the Bobcats with 20 points and seven rebounds off the bench. Jordan Thomas scored 19 while Parks added 14 points. Aside from Brandon Thomas, Koneman provided much help off the bench as he finished off with 14 points, making all four of his three-point attempts.

In the game the Bobcats shot 47.8 percent from the three-point line and held AU to shooting 8.3-percent from three with only one three-point make. The Jags shot better from the field overall shooting 48.4-percent compared to GC’s 45.3-percent, but it was the three-point and free-throw makes that hurt AU. GC made 81.3-percent from the free-throw line, on 26-for-32 shooting. AU had a tough outing from the line, making 53.8-percent (14 of 26).

“We’ve had two great games with them before, and they’re so well coached,” said Gainous. “Fortunately for us, we made a lot of our three-point shots. If those balls don’t go down, we probably don’t win the game.”

Gainous spoke about his team having balance and being able to play many guys.

“We have multiple shooters,” he said. “We can play eight to nine really deep, and we’ve been playing 10 a lot.”

Georgia College will take on the No. 3 seed Lander University on Saturday, March 7, at 2:30 p.m. in the semifinals of the Peach Belt Conference Tournament hosted by Lander. The winner will face the winner of No. 1 UNC-Pembroke against No. 5 Columbus State.

Despite being ranked fourth in the latest NCAA Division II Southeast Regional rankings, Wednesday night’s loss could potentially cause Augusta’s season to be over.

“It’s a good chance we just got knocked out of postseason play by losing to a team that’s below 500 on our home floor,” Metress said. “We’ll find out 10:30 p.m. Sunday like everybody else.”

The NCAA will announce the teams competing in the NCAA Division II men’s basketball tournament on Sunday, March 8, at 10:30 p.m.

The No. 7 seed Augusta University women’s basketball team also suffered a loss in the first round of the PBC Tournament against No. 2 North Georgia, 82-47. With the loss AU’s season ends at 12-17 overall and 9-11 in the PBC.

Sophomore Asia Harrison led the Jags in scoring with 11 points. Sophomore Kiera Howard and junior Stella Logbognon had eight points each.

North Georgia had five in double figures and were led by Abbie Franklin who scored 19 points. Imani Arnold and Julianne Sutton had 13 each, Abby Hubbert posted 11, while Kyra Davis added 10.

UNG (25-4,17-3) will play the No. 3 seed Clayton State in the PBC Tournament semifinals on Saturday, March 7, at 7:30 p.m. at Lander University. The winner plays the winner of top-seeded Lander against fourth-seeded Columbus State. The rest of the PBC Tournament will be hosted by Lander.

Despite a first-round exit, the women’s team made a great stretch in the last month of the season and have a bright future as they return the whole team aside from seniors Cameryn Wilson and Moneisha Goldsborough.

Darren Lucas-White (11) goes up for two of his 18 points in Augusta University’s PBC Tournament loss to Georgia College. (photo by Carlos Rodriguez)

Contact Carlos Rodriguez at carlosjr521@gmail.com.