ASU Takes Thriller Over Pacers, 65-64

ASU Takes Thriller Over Pacers, 65-64

AIKEN, S.C. - In a Peach Belt Conference Tournament championship game that more than lived up to its pre-game billing, the fifth-ranked Augusta State Jaguars won a thrilling 65-64 showdown over 17th-ranked USC Aiken on Sunday afternoon at the USCA Convocation Center.

The title marked the third Peach Belt Conference Tournament championship in school history for ASU, and the Jags' first tournament championship since 2002. It also represented the first PBC Tournament title for ASU under fifth-year head coach Dip Metress.

With the win, the Jags (26-4) became the first PBC regular-season champion to also claim the tournament title since Kennesaw State pulled off the feat in 2004. The victory extended the ASU winning streak to 12 straight, the third-longest in school history. The Jags improved to 17-7 vs. nationally-ranked opponents under Metress, including 5-3 this season.

The contest featured 11 ties and 13 lead changes, and neither team had more than a six-point lead throughout. In the second half alone, there were nine ties and 11 lead changes.

ASU built a 52-47 lead on an offensive rebound and putback by sophomore guard Caleb Brown with 8:54 left. Senior center Garrett Siler stretched the lead to six points on a 3-point play at the 8:36 mark. However, USC Aiken (23-7) used an 8-0 run to take a 57-55 lead on a driving layup by Javonte Clanton.

The Jags moved back in front on two Ben Madgen free throws with 2:53 remaining, but USC Aiken countered with a jump shot off the glass by Josh Dollard to take a 64-62 lead at the 2:03 mark.

That would be the final field goal scored by either team down the stretch. Madgen put ASU back up for good with two free throws with 1:25 remaining, but there was plenty of drama and excitement in the waning moments.

USC Aiken had two opportunities to go in front. However, Chris Commons missed an open 3-point attempt with 58 seconds remaining. And after forcing ASU into a missed shot, Cordaryl Ballard had an open alley in the lane in the final seconds, but his short five-footer was off the mark.

ASU's Madgen sealed his PBC Tournament Most Valuable Player honors with 23 points and added six rebounds. Siler carded 13 points and two blocks, while junior guard Daniel Dixon chipped in 10 points and four assists. Junior forward Greg Hire netted eight points and a game-high 10 rebounds.

USCA's Clanton scored 16 points, followed by Ballard with 15 points. Dollard and Commons each scored 14 points for the Pacers.

Joining ASU's Madgen and Dixon on the All-Tournament Team were Commons and Dollard along with Shaun Keaton from Georgia College & State and Armstrong Atlantic State's Calvin Wilson.

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