March 8, 2008

Saints fall 80-75 to 5th-ranked Pacers

AIKEN, SC - The North Georgia College & State University Saints were defeated 88-83 in their semifinal matchup against the fifth-ranked USC Aiken Pacers at the USC Aiken Convocation Center.

The No. 5-ranked Pacers (27-2), winners of 14 straight, will now meet Clayton State for the league title at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday.

It wasn’t easy for the Pacers, undefeated in their new building in 2007-08, as North Georgia (18-11) led for nearly 18 minutes of the first half and much of the second half. The Pacers went to a full-court press, trailing by nine early in the second half, with varying degrees of success - at one time getting three straight steals and two baskets by Chris Commons in a minute stretch, cutting the lead to 58-55 with 13:12 left - but North Georgia was able to handle the pressure afterwards, stretching its lead to 10, 71-61, on a layup by Nick Pope with 8:35 left.

USC Aiken would then embark on a 11-0 run over the next 3:20 to take a 72-71 lead on a steal and a layup by Seth Leonard. The teams traded leads, until the four-point play by Job Casimir gave USC Aiken the lead for good.

PBC Co-Player of the Year and five time PBC Player of the Week Commons led a quartet of Pacers in double figures with 22 points on 9-of-17 shooting from the floor, also adding 10 rebounds for a double-double and four blocked shots. Jeremy Fears added 19 points and Casimir finished the night with 16 points.

The Saints, in their first PBC tournament appearance in school history, were led by Pope’s 21 points and Jakira Millsap’s 17 points.

North Georgia took a 40-37 lead into halftime as Jakira Millsap hit a three-pointer with 8:28 until intermission that snapped a 22-all tie and the Saints held onto a slim advantage heading into the break. North Georgia forced nine USC Aiken turnovers in the first half and hit 5-of-10 three-pointers, while USC Aiken hit 7-of-16 threes in a high-scoring first frame.

The Pacers finished the game 10-for-24 from three-point range for 41.7 percent and hit 24-of-34 free throws, compared to just 11-of-16 for the Saints.

For USC Aiken, it is their second-ever PBC Tournament Championship appearance, with the first coming in the 1993 tournament, which the Pacers won 64-60 over Augusta State for their only league tournament title.

Quotes:

North Georgia Head Coach Chris Faulkner:
“I told my guys that we played well enough to win. We had some sequences in the second half and their pressure got us out of what we were trying to do. But overall, our team played very well against what is one of the best teams in the country.”

“We were definitely ready to play, and we really attacked them. We had to take the fight to them, and we did. But they are so talented that no lead is safe against them because they can score so quickly.”

“I can’t say enough about the character in our seniors.”