Pacers to Play for Peach Belt Conference Tournament Championship
AIKEN, S.C. - The University of South Carolina Aiken men's
basketball team will play for the Peach Belt Conference Tournament
Championship for the third straight year after a 58-55 victory over
Clayton State on Saturday night in the Convocation
USC Aiken will take on the Montevallo Falcons in the PBC Tournament Championship beginning at 4:30 in the Convocation Center. Montevallo advanced to the championship with an 81-77 victory over No. 1 Augusta State.
USC Aiken and Clayton State have played each other in the Peach Belt Tournament three years in a row, with the Pacers winning the last two matchups.
Senior Casey McMasters (Harrisburg, Pa./Central Dauphin HS) came off the bench for head coach Vince Alexander to score a team-high 18 points, including four three-pointers which would prove to be the difference in the game.
Fellow senior Seth Leonard (York, Pa./William Penn HS) ripped a game-high 10 rebounds to go with six points.
Nearly 3,000 fans witnessed a back and forth contest that was tied seven times and featured nine lead changes.
The low-scoring affair between the Lakers and Pacers was tied at intermission, 26-26. Both teams shot below 40 percent on the night.
USC Aiken dominated the rebounding battle 49-33. USC Aiken's stark advantage was led by Leonard's 10 with help from Kevin Willis' (Atlants, Ga./Kaskaskia) seven boards and Jores Dongo (Gabon, Africa/Mercer CC) and Re'mon Nelson six rebounds each.
Willis also scored seven points including a thunderous put-back jam with 2:07 left in regulation that brought the crowd to their feet and momentarily suppressed the Lakers comeback effort, giving USC Aiken the lead 53-48.
On Clayton State's next possession Leonard was fouled after rebounding a missed jumper from Timothy Downs. The senior captain connected on both free-throws to give USC Aiken a 55-48 lead with 1:30 left to play.
A Robert Murry jumper four seconds later closed the Lakers' deficit to 55-50 with 1:24 on the clock. Murry and Downs combined to score the next four points of the game to cut the Pacers lead to one 55-54 with :24 seconds left in regulation.
Byron Faison (Sumter, S.C./Crestwood HS) grabbed a missed free-throw by Eric Wilson with :06 seconds remaining and converted both of his free-throw attempts after being fouled by Jaquas Dobbs to give the Pacers a three point lead.
Clayton State's final trip down the floor ended when Re'mon Nelson (Canal Winchester, Ohio/Canal Winchester HS) stole Downs' pass as the Lakers were looking for the tying three-pointer.