When Augusta State opens play in the Peach Belt Conference Tournament today, the Lady Jaguars will enter with a new vibe.
Last year, Augusta State endured a 28-point beatdown by West Division champion Clayton State. This time, the Lady Jaguars enter as a division champion with high hopes.
“This year, there’s a really positive feeling going on,” senior guard Eryka Menzies said. “There’s still jitters of this being a big game. But there’s more confidence going in this year and I think it’ll show on the court.”
The 24th-ranked Lady Jaguars face North Georgia at 1 p.m. today in Columbus, Ga. The winner advances to play the Flagler-Montevallo winner in the semifinals.
With a win today, Augusta State (21-5) will make its first tournament semifinal appearance since 1998. The Lady
Jaguars, ranked seventh in the Southeast Region, are also looking to solidify their Division II Tournament bid.
“I think we’re focused more on getting this conference championship right now,” senior point guard Brittany White said. “But it does feel good to be ranked in the region.”
After a stretch in early February when Augusta State lost three of four games – two to top-five opponents – the Lady Jaguars have gotten hot. Augusta State closed the regular season with five consecutive wins en route to the East Division title.
The Lady Jaguars hang their hat on defense, allowing 53.2 points a game, ranking second in the Peach Belt and ninth nationally.
Center Taylor Ayers, who has scored in double digits in six of the past seven contests, leads Augusta State with 11.6 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. Forward Jemimah Ashby, who’s played in six games following her return from a knee injury, chips in with an 11.5 scoring average and is followed by Tanchelle Hollingsworth (10.0).
North Georgia (12-14) grabbed the West No. 4 seed by winning its final three games.
The team is led by junior forward Jaymee Carnes, who averages 18.0 points and 9.5 rebounds a game.
Augusta State defeated North Georgia by two in mid-January when it played without Ashby. The Lady Jaguars shot only 37 percent from the floor in that contest, but Ayers scored 14 and the team forced 23 turnovers.
Augusta State coach Nate Teymer said he expects another slugfest.
“It’s going to be a tough game, but any time you get into the conference tournament it’s going to be a tough game,” he said. “I don’t think either team is going to get a lead of more than six or seven. It’s going to go down to the wire.”