COLUMBUS, Ga. — When Augusta State and Montevallo first met on Jan. 28 in Montevallo, Ala., the Jaguars led by as many as 18 points in the second half before Montevallo came roaring back to post an eight-point victory.
History repeated itself Saturday night at the Lumpkin Center in the semifinals of the Peach Belt Conference Tournament, as Augusta State held a 15-point lead late in the first half and saw it evaporate as the Falcons rallied to win, 63-59.
The win sends Montevallo (23-7) into today’s 4:30 p.m. championship game against Columbus State.
“This game started out the same as last time,” said Montevallo coach Danny Young. “The only difference was when we played them at our place, they got on us at the start of the game and tonight they made a big run late in the first half. But we came out in the second half with a renewed energy and commitment to executing on the offensive end.”
While the Falcons have already punched their ticket to the NCAA Tournament, Augusta State (17-11) must play the waiting game to see if it receives an at-large bid. The Jaguars were No. 8 in this week’s Southeast Region rankings and defeated No. 7 Georgia College in the quarterfinals of the tournament on Friday.
“There are a lot of things that could occur,” said Augusta State coach Dip Metress, who was visibly upset at the postgame press conference. “As long as there aren’t any upsets in the other conferences, we should be playing (in the NCAA Tournament).”
The Jaguars led by as many as 16 in the first half and took a 36-25 lead into halftime.
Augusta State was still up 45-34 with 16:04 remaining, but the Falcons went on a 14-2 run over the next 6:13 to take a 48-47 lead. The Jaguars got a three-point play by O’Neal Armstrong to go up 53-50 with 7:12 to go, but Augusta State didn’t make another field goal for seven-plus minutes, allowing Montevallo to take control.
The Falcons took the lead for good at 54-53 on a basket by D.J. Rivera with 5:43 remaining and despite missing 7 of 8 free throws during a stretch of 1:35, Montevallo used strong rebounding and tenacious defense to hold on.