AIKEN — USC Aiken’s recent hot stretch nearly reached a new high before running into a second-half surge by a first-place team.
Armstrong Atlantic State overcame an early deficit to beat the Pacer women 76-70 on Saturday night at the convocation center.
Armstrong Atlantic’s Brigitta Barta scored 33 points to spark a Pirates team that shot nearly 60 percent in the second half. The Pirates overcame a six-point halftime deficit by outscoring the Pacers 41-29 in the second half.
“They’re just a good team,” USC Aiken coach Mike Brandt said. “They’re as good a team as we’ve played all year.”
Barta, a freshman from Hungary, went 12 for 14 from the field and made all nine free-throw attempts, adding seven rebounds for the Pirates (15-6, 10-5 Peach Belt Conference), who maintained their lead in the Peach Belt Conference’s East Division.
“You have to give Barta credit,” Brandt said. “She stepped up and was a beast. It’s tough to beat someone who plays like that. She just kept fighting.”
USC Aiken’s Courtney Mealing had 18 points, and Amaura Brandt recorded a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Porsha Martin added nine points and 13 rebounds.
The Pacers (7-15, 5-8) had won two in a row and were attempting to climb out of fourth place in the East before falling to the Pirates.
The two teams remained close early in the game. The Pacers jumped to a 12-5 lead before the Pirates bounced back to take their only first-half lead at 17-16 with 12:30 left.
A surge by Mealing and USC Aiken resulted in a 10-point lead by 4:49, and the Pacers led 41-35 at the half.
Armstrong Atlantic took its first second-half lead within the first five minutes and never gave it up. The Pirates led by as many as eight with 1:57 to go.
The Pacers crawled back to within two with 53 seconds remaining, but the Pirates clamped down with four unanswered points to seal the win.
“The way we fought back defines our team,” Brandt said. “It’s our personality as a team. We’ve still got work to do. We need to stay confident.”