USC AIKEN 60, FLAGLER 58
Far removed from the comfort of a 16-point lead, the USC Aiken women's basketball team needed to make plays down the stretch.
Ahead by just a point with under a minute to go, Kwajelin Farrar scored with the shot clock winding down, then played strong defense and got a rebound at the other end of the floor. Seconds later, Flagler's desperation 3-point attempt missed, Madison Williams grabbed the rebound and Melyk Taouil drained two free throws for a too-close-for-comfort 60-58 win Wednesday at the Convocation Center.
"I think the difference is we made a few more plays late, got a few breaks a late, to secure the win," said USCA head coach Mark Miller. "Flagler came in and played really hard and played really, really well for 40 minutes. For us, a little disappointed in our effort. I think we're better than that as a team. Hats off to Flagler, though. They came in ready to go. For us to get better, we've got to have more energy and more effort than we did tonight. We were lucky to get the win."
Alexis Mack scored a game-high 17 points and had seven rebounds for USCA (9-6, 4-3 Peach Belt Conference), and Farrar had a double-double with 12 points and 13 rebounds.
The Pacers got off to a hot start, making 58.8 percent of their field goal attempts and hitting five of 11 3-pointers in the first quarter for a 25-15 lead.
They cooled off from there, though, making just 12 of their final 30 attempts – and four of 14 3-point tries – as Flagler (4-8, 2-4) hung around.
USCA increased its lead to 16 at 50-34 with 4:22 left in the third quarter. But Flagler responded with a 21-6 run to get within a point with 1:57 to go.
That's when Farrar, battling inside all night, gave the Pacers a little breathing room. She collected an inbounds pass with just 3 seconds on the shot clock and banked home two points, then played tight defense on the following possession to keep Flagler from scoring.
"Just that I have to do my part. I have to make sure that I'm the best that I can be for my team at all times," she said. "I know I didn't have a great game, especially for me, but just knowing that at the end we have to make plays. We have to be there for each other, and we have to stay together and do everything we can like it's the beginning of the game."
Flagler's N'Mya Pierce had 11 points and 12 rebounds, and Jazzy Mathis had 11 points and 11 rebounds. Flagler out-rebounded USCA by 13 in the second half and grabbed 14 offensive boards during that span. The Saints only shot 29.9 percent from the floor for the game, but they gave themselves a shot at the win as USCA went cold.
Those early 3s were a boost for the Pacers, but they also hurt them – Miller felt his team became too reliant on the 3-pointer rather than playing their style of offense.
"That's not the kind of make-up our team has. We have to be really balanced – shoot the 3, get it inside to our post players, beat them off the bounce where they can get to the free throw line and make free throws," he said. "We didn't make free throws. We shot too many 3s. We've just got to get a little bit more balanced. It was nice to have those going in, but then we went on a streak where we missed five, six in a row that allowed them to get back in the game because we didn't defend very well and then we didn't rebound."
USCA has a road game at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Young Harris.