USC AIKEN 49 GRU AUGUSTA 46
The USC Aiken women's basketball team essentially sealed its 49-46 win over rival GRU Augusta in a fitting way – by forcing a shot-clock violation.
With 17 seconds left in the game, the Jaguars took a timeout with one second remaining on the shot clock but couldn't get anything going. Mariah Durian made a pair of free throws at the other end, and Mackenzie Reese swatted away Marissa Mandeldove's effort to tie the game.
The Pacers (6-14, 4-7 Peach Belt Conference) struggled to inbound, but the Jaguars (9-9, 5-6) couldn't make the most of the :00.6 remaining.
“I think, first of all, our team's coming around and learning Pacer basketball, which includes defense,” said head coach Mike Brandt.
Reese, who also scored six points for the Pacers, hit a game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer in a road win over the Jaguars last season. She said she gets up for every game, but the rivalry with GRU hits a different level.
“I don't know,” Reese said. “I knew this was a huge home game. I knew we needed to bounce back after that loss to Flagler (on Wednesday).”
The Jaguars were without leading scorer Jamimah Ashby, who missed a second straight game for “medical reasons,” but head coach Nate Teymer didn't use that as an excuse.
“I was proud of the way our girls in uniform played,” he said. “Other people have to step up. I feel we have the right pieces to get going.”
The Pacers trailed by as many as 10 in the first half before a 9-0 run tied the game at 20 with 3:38 left in the opening half. The teams traded buckets for the next few minutes before Kate Duff stole the ball with 17 seconds left, went coast-to-coast and scooped up her own miss to give the home team a 27-25 halftime lead.
Amaura Brandt was the star of the first half, going 3-for-4 from beyond the 3-point line to score all nine of her points.
In the second half, Durian gave the team what proved to be a crucial spark. She sat the first half for disciplinary reasons but scored five points in her first four minutes on the floor and nine total in the second stanza.
“She's a competitor. She knows when things go wrong, there's consequences,” Brandt said, noting that Durian's involvement from the sideline was a deciding factor in her second-half playing time.
Strom Thurmond grad Courtney Mealing joined Durian and Brandt as a leading scorer with nine points, and she got five at a very crucial time.
The home team trailed 44-42 for almost two minutes late in the game before Mealing hit a jumper to tie it with 2:42 remaining. On the next possession, Mealing nailed a 3-pointer from the corner for a lead the Pacers wouldn't relinquish.
“That's what good players do,” Brandt said of Mealing, who sat out of basketball for two years after two seasons at Francis Marion. “She's starting to get that swagger back.”
Senior Porsha Martin scored six points with nine rebounds, making five Pacers with six points or more. In all, nine USCA players put points on the board.
“I think you have to credit GRU for that,” Brandt said. “Our philosophy on offense is we just try to move the ball – open shooter, shoot it.”
The Pacer women will get the next chance to put that philosophy to work on Wednesday when they host Lander.
Jeremy Timmerman has a journalism degree from Mercer University. Follow him on Twitter @ASJTimm.