– The North Georgia men’s basketball team fought
through adversity and a late deficit on Wednesday evening to come
back and shock Clayton State University 82-79 in Memorial Hall in
Peach Belt Conference action.
The Saints stay in the hunt for the second seed in the Peach Belt Conference’s West Division, improving to 15-11 overall and 10-6 in the league, while the Lakers drops to 14-12 on the season, and 7-9 in league action. With Montevallo's loss to GCSU, the Saints are now in a tie for the second seed in the PBC Tournament and control their own destiny to host the first round of the playoffs.
North Georgia opened the game red hot from the field, jumping out to a 14-5 lead as Tyler Norman scored eight points in the first three minutes to create the nine-point lead with 16:38 remaining in the first half.
The Saints extended their lead to as many as 14 points on a John Nolton layup with 11:00 minutes remaining in the opening period, making it a 28-14 North Georgia advantage. Clayton State trailed by 10 points with 5:22 remaining in the half when the Lakers went on a 5-0 run to pull within seven points, a margin that turned out to be North Georgia’s halftime lead at 44-37.
The Saints opened the second half on a 6-0 run to extend their lead right back to double-digits at 50-37. Carl Taylor hit a three-pointer to open the half, and Kindall Butler capped the run with a layup off a pass from Bernard Rimmer to create the 13-point advantage.
North Georgia continued to hold a double-digit lead throughout the second half until the Lakers started to chip away at the lead and pulled to within five points as Robert Murray pulled down a rebound and ran the distance for a layup and a three-point play the old fashioned away to make it a 64-59 North Georgia lead with 7:03 remaining.
The Lakers continued to get stops and score on the offensive end, creating a 25-7 run that gave Clayton State their first lead of the game, a six-point edge at 74-68 with 5:10 remaining. The Saints then came back with six straight points of their own to tie the game 74-74 with 2:55 remaining as Taylor hit a pair of free throws to deadlock the score.
With the Saints down two and 19 seconds remaining, Norman pulled up from long range, draining the three-pointer to put the Saints up by a bucket. Following a Clayton State missed three-pointer on the ensuing possession, Taylor was fouled and hit both free throws, giving North Georgia a three-point edge at 82-79 with just 11 ticks remaining.
Taylor led the Saints and all
scorers with 26 points, while Norman added 18 points on 4-7
shooting from long range. Butler finished in double figures with 13
points and seven rebounds, while Bernard Rimmer pulled down a
game-high 15 rebounds to go with seven points.
North Georgia shot 44.6 percent from the field, 46.2 percent from long range, and 76.9 percent from the free throw line, while Clayton State was 39.4 percent from the floor, 25 percent from behind the arc, and 81.5 percent from the charity stripe.
North Georgia returns to action on Saturday, playing host to Georgia College in both team’s regular season finale. Tip-off against the Bobcats is set for 3:30 p.m. in Memorial Hall.