March 9, 2013

North Georgia Advances to First-Ever PBC Championship Game with 70-66 Win Over Flagler

COLUMBUS, Ga. – Teams want to be playing their best basketball when it matters most, and that is certainly the case for the University of North Georgia women's basketball team. The Saints in blue continued their winning streak Saturday afternoon with a 70-66 win over Flagler College in the semifinal round of the 2013 Marvin Vanover Peach Belt Conference Basketball Championships.

The win, which came off a layup by freshman Keeley Chester with 12 seconds remaining, propels North Georgia (14-14) into the PBC Tournament Championship Game for the first time since joining the conference. Flagler (15-13) will see its season come to an end with its first-ever conference tournament appearance after being tabbed 14th in the PBC preseason poll back in November.

Unlike in Thursday's game when three players did most of the scoring for UNG, the Saints from Dahlonega used a more balanced attack Saturday to keep the game within reach while shooting 47.2% (25-53) from the field. Seven different players, a mix of veterans and young players, scored for North Georgia with five scoring eight or more points led by Mimi Hill's game-high 24. Hill has now scored in double-digits in her last 13 games and scored at least 20 points in eight of those contests. The junior from Gainesville, Ga. went 8-17 from the field Saturday and 8-9 from the free throw line while also corralling in a team-high of eight rebounds.

Jaymee Carnes and Chester, part of the trio along with Hill that sparked the late-game rally to win, were the next-highest scorers for North Georgia with 13 points each. Both hit a three-pointer with Chester going a perfect 6-6 at the free throw line while Carnes had three blocks.

Freshman Cierra Jackson and sophomore Giovani Sims each came off the bench to also provide North Georgia with some offense as they each scored eight points. Sims was perfect from both the field (3-3) and the free throw line (2-2) and Jackson recorded five rebounds.

For Flagler, which shot 39.2% (29-74) from the field, Williesha Spencer led the scoring drive with 16 points that included hitting two of Flagler's four treys. Spencer went 6-13 from the field and was 2-4 from both the three-point arc and the charity stripe.

Christina Brown also shot 6-13 from the field as she ended the contest with 13 points and Shelbi Lindsey recorded the only double-double of the game with 12 rebounds and 11 points.

North Georgia controlled much of the first half of play, leading by as many as 10 (31-21) at one point, but entered halftime clinging to a one-point, 37-36 lead after Jen Knurek hit a jumper to end the first stanza.

Flagler would then come out in the second half and would similarly take over as the Saints from St. Augustine scored the first four points of the second stanza to go up 40-37.

The two teams swapped the lead back and fourth eight times and were tied five times in the second half as neither team could establish more than a five-point lead when Flagler held a 65-60 advantage with 1:31 remaining in regulation. But North Georgia, having been a part of seven games during the regular-season that were decided by four or fewer points, continued to battle hard down the stretch and it paid off for just the third time this season as UNG held Flagler to just one point in the final 1:30.

With 1:00 left and still down by five, Chester nailed a three-pointer to pull North Georgia within two, 65-63. It was the team's first three-pointer of the game before Carnes hit her own trey from the left side of the key to give the Saints a one-point, 66-65 lead, before Flagler's Spencer was fouled on the ensuing drive and tied the game by hitting one of her two free throws with 25 seconds left to play.

Not wanting to settle for overtime, North Georgia drove down the court and Chester found herself with an open lane to the basket, which the freshman from Cumming, Ga. took all the way to the hoop for what would essentially be for the win.

North Georgia will face the winner of the game between No. 1 Clayton State University and the 25th-ranked University of South Carolina Aiken. The Lakers, which won both regular-season meetings with the Saints 86-65 and 88-56, are the top seed out of the West while the Pacers, a team the Saints beat 57-50 at home when USC Aiken was ranked third in the country, are the No. 2 seed out of the East Division.

Sunday's Championship Game will be contested at 2:00 p.m. inside the Frank G. Lumpkin Center on the campus of Columbus State University with the men's game to follow. The Peach Belt will provide live stats and a free live webcast of all the games from Thursday through Sunday. Additionally, Glory 1330 WGTJ will air all of North Georgia's games in the tournament. Games can be heard on the radio at AM-1330, online through the "Listen Live" link on the home page of the station's website, glory1330.com, and/or on any smart phone or tablet with the "Tune In Radio" application.

Follow all the action live at the official 2013 Peach Belt Conference Tournament site found HERE.