AIKEN, SC – Augusta State shot 50% in the second half and hit 81% of their 42 free throw attempts as they won the2011 PBC Tournament Championship on Sunday in Aiken 76-59 over UNC Pembroke. The Jaguars (28-3) earn the PBC’s automatic bid to next week’s NCAA Tournament. UNC Pembroke sees their season come to a close with an 18-11 record after making their first-ever PBC championship game appearance.
Both teams started the game tight and points were hard to come by for the first five minutes. ASU led 9-4 before free throws from UNCP’s Mike Robinson and Nate Priest and a layup from Shahmel Brackett gave the Braves their first lead of the game. The two teams traded that lead five more times over the next four minutes until the score was tied at 15 each with 9:40 to play.
UNCP got to 15 on Chris Hargrove’s three-pointer with 10:18 to play, but the Braves would not score again for nearly seven minutes as the Jaguars went on an 18-0 run to open up a 17-point lead. Franck Ndongo scored eight of ASU’s first 10 points of the run and had 10 points overall in the span.
Down 17, UNC Pembroke cut the lead down with a 9-3 run that ended with a Brackett three-pointer and Robinson layup. ASU’s O’Neal Armstrong answered with a pair of free throws that left ASU up 37-24 at the half.
The second half was status quo as ASU’s lead shrank to 13 after a Robinson free throw with 17:42 left, but that would be as close as the Braves would get until the waning seconds. Ndongo got a steal and breakaway layup which began a period where the Jaguars were scoring two points for every one for UNCP that left ASU with a 21-point lead, their largest in the game, with 7:22 to play.
The Jaguars did that largely at the free throw line, setting season-highs in both free throws made and attempted. ASU took 21 free throws in each half and hit 18 of them in the second frame, an 86% rate. UNCP hit 20 of 25 from the line as a team but struggled from long distance, hitting only one of nine three-pointers in the second half. The 34 total makes by ASU set a PBC Tournament record.
ASU’s Tye Beale led the team with 17 points, hitting 10 of 11 free throws. George Johnson scored 16 and was named the tournament Most Valuable Player. Ndongo finished with 15 and Armstrong 14.
Brackett scored 24 to lead UNC Pembroke, hitting eight of 14 from the floor and all six of his free throws. No other Brave reached double figures as Priest finished with eight and Blakeney led all players with seven rebounds.
Augusta State extends their head-to-head winning streak over UNC Pembroke to 17 straight games. The Jaguars claim their fourth overall tournament title and their second in three years, both of those also coming with PBC regular-season championships.
Augusta State is favored to host their fifth straight NCAA Southeast Regional championship. If they are awarded the regional on Sunday night, they will host the event 12-13 and 15 as Christenberry Fieldhouse in Augusta.
Trayce Macon, Georgia Southwestern
Antoine Davis, Montevallo
George Blakeney, UNC Pembroke
Shahmel Brackett, UNC Pembroke
O’Neal Armstrong, Augusta State
George Johnson, Augusta State
Augusta State vs. UNC Pembroke - Quotes
Augusta State head coach Dip Metress:
"Not many people thought on October 15 that we'd be here in this situation, so I am very proud of our team to win this. I talked to them about winning the conference championship. We had a five-minute stretch where we were dynamite defensively and taking care of the ball. It as a great win - a great win! You don't get many championships, and to get the regular season title and the tournament title - that's a great pair. You don't get too many opportunities for something like this. We had to mentally ready to play, and this is a great feeling."
"Beal did a great job defending Brackett, and he made some tough shots. We are not complicated offensively, we are not searching for our own shot, and for the most part, playing unselfish. They spaced him, and he shot them in the offense. Early in the season, he had a stretch where he didn't make too many shots, and I called him out on it a couple of times in practice."
"It's a culmination of the season - a body of work. After we lost to Georgia College, we met that night and I told them we would have to go on the road for the Regional. And wow! How things turned around."
"Every team we play is different offensively, and we have adjusted well defensively to that."
Junior guard O'Neal Armstrong:
"We had to keep applying the pressure and not be stagnant. We had to keep moving the ball and take good shots, and it worked."
Senior guard George Johnson:
"Just part of a great program from the head coach to the assistant coach. They know how to win, and I just came here to try to keep the tradition alive."
"When they are knocking down shots, it opens up our offense and it opens me up. Now that Ty is taking shots, we will be tough to beat."
UNC-Pembroke head coach Ben Miller:
"Congratulations to Augusta State. They have a great basketball team, and we have a good team as well. We didn't play our best, but you have to give them credit. They make things tough. But I am real proud of our guys. Not many people expected us to be playing on the last day. Everybody did a great job getting us to this point. We are just disappointed in the outcome."
"We have a chance to continue playing, and that's we are hoping for. But if this is it, I am very proud of these players and what they have done. We have made a lot of growth as a program."