Jags a win away from historic trip

Michael Holahan/Staff
ASU Head Coach Dip Metress reacts to the action as his team takes on Wingate during NCAA South Atlantic Regional basketball tournament action at the ASU's Christenberry Fieldhouse in Augusta Sunday afternoon.

TONIGHT: Sports reporter Chris Gay will be blogging the game live from Christenberry Fieldhouse.

 

One more win.

That's all Augusta State needs on its home floor to advance to the holy grail of Division II basketball -- the Elite Eight.

In the biggest game in school history, the Jaguars (24-6) play host to Clayton State (19-14) in the South Atlantic Regional championship at 7 tonight at Christenberry Fieldhouse.

The winner advances to the Elite Eight, March 26-29, in Springfield, Mass.

"We've put ourselves in that position," said coach Dip Metress, who is 82-37 in four seasons at Augusta State and 216-130 overall. "Two to three weeks ago, people didn't think we were going to be here. We knew we were going to be here. I had confidence in this team and they had some confidence in themselves."

After losing to Clayton State in the Peach Belt Conference Tournament quarterfinals, Augusta State regrouped. On Saturday, the Jaguars edged Johnson C. Smith in the first round of the Division II Tournament. The following day, Augusta State charged in the second half to pull away from defending regional champion Wingate.

The Jaguars are winning on the strength of their interior play. In the past two games, all-conference center Garret Siler is 12-for-14 from the floor with 32 points. He's also posted 17 rebounds and eight blocks.

Augusta State All-American senior forward Tyrekus "A.J." Bowman posted 55 points on 22-for-38 field-goal shooting in the Regional. A two-time Peach Belt Conference Player of the Year, Bowman has moved to second on the school and Peach Belt all-time scoring lists with 1,734 career points.

Bowman -- along with fellow seniors Demetrius Howard, Luke Tambon, Etsho Ilunga and Jamie Quarles -- will make his final home appearance. But with a win, Augusta State's season will continue.

It depends on how the Jaguars play against conference rival Clayton State. They have split six meetings over the past two seasons.

The Lakers, who led the league in scoring defense, overcame a seven-point deficit against UNC Pembroke in the first round of the Peach Belt Tournament to spark a six-game winning streak.

Seventh-year Clayton State coach Gordon Gibbons, who previously led Florida Southern, has been here before.

In 17 seasons, he has a 386-136 record with a Final Four appearance.

This may be Gibbons finest stretch of coaching. Four of the Lakers' past six games have been decided by three points or fewer.

Clayton State, the lone remaining No. 8 seed in the Division II Tournament, will try to notch a win at Christenberry Fieldhouse, where the Jaguars are 13-1 this season and 44-8 in Metress' four seasons.

Reach Chris Gay at (706) 823-3645 or chris.gay@augustachronicle.com.

CLAYTON STATE (19-14) VS. AUGUSTA STATE (24-6) - 7 TONIGHT - CHRISTENBERRY FIELDHOUSE

With a victory tonight at Christenberry Fieldhouse, Augusta State coach Dip Metress will take his team to the Division II Tournament's Elite Eight in Springfield, Mass. The Jaguars are 44-8 on their home floor in four seasons under Metress.

WHAT'S AT STAKE: Winner advances to the Elite Eight in Springfield, Mass.

TICKETS: $10 (ASU ticket office from 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.; Christenberry Fieldhouse box office opens at 6 p.m.)