GAFFNEY, S.C. – The eighth-seeded Augusta Jaguars (24-9) reached the NCAA Division II Tournament Southeast Region Championship game and were outlasted 72-65 by Peach Belt Conference foe Francis Marion (24-8) on Monday night in the Timken Center on the campus of Limestone College. The Jags reached the Sweet 16 for the second time in program history.
It was a five-point game with just under a minute remaining in the contest, when Augusta senior Camille Gee hit a three at the top of the arc for a 66-64 game. Seventh-seed FMU made a pair of free throws from Briana Burgins, before Gee got to the line and made one of two.
Down 68-65, Augusta was forced to foul with 20 seconds dwindling and FMU hung on to beat the Jaguars and advance to the Elite Eight. The southeast region tournament champion advances to the NCAA Division II Elite Eight March 22-25 in Sioux Falls, S.D.
The Jags end the season 24-9, matching the most wins in school history while making their fourth NCAA Tournament appearance all time since the 1991-92 season and their first in the last eight seasons.
“It was a fun ride, sometimes people say it’s not the way it ends, but to just enjoy the journey,” Head Coach Nate Teymer said. “It hurts right now, but it will come in time. It was a great couple of wins, emotions were high. It’s tough for 18-to-22 year olds to get, to keep getting up so high and then to getting right back into it. Was it a tough loss, yes, but I wouldn’t change this week with this team for anything.”
Augusta senior Kariel Hutt and junior Breonna O’Conner were named to the All-Tournament Team at the conclusion of the game.
Hutt helped spark a fourth-quarter run and led all players with 21 points and 12 rebounds. Hutt ends the season with 16 double-doubles and 31 for her two-year career as a Jaguar. Senior Camille Gee scored 18 points and junior Kayla Lovett had nine points, seven assists, and four steals.
“We worked real hard to get here. We pushed each other hard in practice,” Hutt said. “Our mentality was just one basket at a time. Keep everybody going and try and get energy on the court because we came out kind of low. Just keep pushing them.”
Neither team shot above 40 percent in the first half from field-goal range. Augusta ended the game shooting even 40 percent from the floor while FMU posted a 41.8 field-goal percentage. The three-point shot was a difference maker as the Jags were 3-15 (20 percent) from beyond the arc and the Patriots 8-15 (53.3 percent).
The Patriots won the opening tipoff, but Augusta forced an immediate turnover and got on offense. The Jags missed their first two attempts until Hutt got them on the board with a one-handed jumper.
A Camille Gee corner three pointer gave the Jags an 11-9 lead, but FMU answered with a wide-open three ball in their corner for a 12-11 game five minutes into the first period. The Patriots grabbed three offensive rebounds in one possession and converted to stay ahead.
FMU led 22-20 at the end of one period, but a spin move from Hutt in the lane opened the paint for an easy game-tying layup. Hutt was 5-7 on field goal attempts to get a quick 10 points midway through the second period, but a strong close to the half gave FMU a 36-31 lead at the break.
The Pats produced the first points of the second half and an Alaysia Watts three pointer put them up 45-33 before scoring three consecutive fast-break points for a 51-33 lead. Hutt knocked down a long jumper to slow the Pats down, but another trey pushed FMU back up by 15.
In the fourth quarter, O’Conner found Hutt in the lane for two baskets that brought the score to 60-53 with just over five minutes. Gee made a big three pointer and sophomore Cynara Pitt drew a foul and made both free throws as the Jags got themselves into a 64-61 game with one minute to go.
Camille Dash hit a jumper to put FMU up 66-61 and after Augusta closed it to an eventual two-point game, the Patriots converted when it counted to withstand a late Augusta rally.
FMU was led by five in double-figure points. Briana Burgins and Alaysia Watts each had 14 points, while Burgins was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.
After recording one of the biggest upsets in NCAA college basketball this season with a 79-70 triumph over No. 2 nationally-ranked Limestone in the quarterfinal game, the Jags prevailed past Anderson in the semis to reach the championship contest.