Pacers Survive And Advance; Down Montevallo 63-55
COLUMBUS, Ga. – USC Aiken pulled away down the stretch
Thursday for a 63-55 quarterfinal victory over Montevallo in the
Peach Belt Conference Championships hosted by Columbus State
University at the Frank G. Lumpkin Center.
The victory was the eighth straight for the ninth-ranked Pacers, who improved to 24-3 on the season. With the win, the Pacers advance to the tournament semifinals on Saturday, March 3 at 4:00 p.m., and will take on the winner of Thursday’s fourth quarterfinal matchup between UNC Pembroke and Columbus State.
USC Aiken sophomore Kayla Harris, a first-team All-PBC selection, booked a game-high 25 points and eight rebounds. Fellow first-team selection Hannah DeGraffinreed turned in 12 points and Brittany Hill added 10 points and five assists.
Freshman Taylor Beverly led Montevallo (11-16) with a career-high 24 points and pulled down seven boards. Tiffany McClure chipped in 13 points and handed out seven assists.
Beverly kept the Falcons close in the first half with 11 points, connecting on 5-of-7 field-goal attempts. Montevallo jumped out in front early at 4-0 and the Pacers led by as many seven midway through the period en route to a 26-23 halftime lead.
Beverly’s jumper pulled UM within 32-30 six minutes into the second half. A McClure free throw just 46 seconds later cut the Falcons’ deficit to one only to have the Pacers respond with a 6-0 spurt.
Lindsey Sundberg’s trey from the left wing gave the Pacers a 45-36 lead before McClure’s driving layup stemmed the tide. Beverly got free inside for consecutive layups to bring UM within 45-42 before DeGraffinreed’s answered with a layup of her own for a five-point USCA lead with 6:28 left.
Harris connected on a mid-range jumper and DeGraffinreed added four more points as the Pacers once again pushed their advantage back to nine before a Harris free throw put Aiken up 52-42 with 4:31 remaining.
The Falcons, who shot 66.7 percent in the second half, continued to claw back when Beverly hit a layup and Taylor Welch drained a 3-pointer at the 3:36 mark to cut their deficit in half.
Harris hit a short jumper from the left elbow for a 54-49 Aiken lead, and after the Pacers missed on three chances around the basket, McClure’s slashing layup pulled the Falcons to within 54-49 with 1:44 left. But Hill canned a pair of free throws and Harris added one from the charity stripe for a 57-49 Aiken lead.
Montevallo, which wrapped up its first season under former Pacers’ assistant coach Cindy Hilbrich, shot 52.2 percent for the game and edged Aiken on the boards, 30-29.
USCA didn’t attempt a free throw in the first half but went 15-of-22 from the charity stripe in the second half. The Pacers improved to 20-0 when leading at the half and USCA head coach Mike Brandt improved to 5-0 vs. Montevallo.