After struggling down the stretch, the Paine men and women found success in the final week of the regular season, each winning their final two games.
They will try to carry that momentum with them to this week’s Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament in Atlanta.
The Lady Lions, the No. 11 seed, will take on sixth-seed Miles at 10 a.m. today. The Paine men, a No. 6 seed, face Morehouse, the No. 11 seed, Wednesday at 4 p.m.
There’s little margin for error for the Paine squads. If either team is to advance to the Division II Tournament, they will almost certainly have to run the table in the tournament.
The Lion men got off to a scorching start in SIAC play, winning their first five games in the league and 10 of their first 14. But the Lions cooled off considerably, at one point dropping seven of eight games.
However, the Lions (14-12, 13-11) ended their season with wins over LeMoyne-Owen and Claflin.
“I think we’re mentally ready now,” Paine coach Jimmy Link said. “After winning two in a row, we’re really amped up.”
In its opening round game, Paine faces a Maroon Tigers team it beat by 30 points when the two teams last met in January. But in their first meeting of the season, the Lions lost 90-74 at Morehouse, which is the site of the SIAC tournament.
“It’s going to be a battle,” Link said.
If the Paine men are to make a deep run, it might be a freshman who leads them.
Guard Kedric Taylor led all freshmen in the league with 10.6 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per game. On Monday, he was named the SIAC freshman of the year.
Unlike the men, the Paine women had trouble sustaining success all season.
Their two-game winning streak to close the regular season – also against LeMoyne-Owen and Claflin – marked just the second time the Lady Lions (6-20, 6-16) won back-to-back games this season.
Up first for the Paine women is Miles, which has had the Lady Lions’ number this season.
In two meetings this season, the Golden Bears have won by an average of 24.5 points.
The Lady Lions will rely heavily on sophomore Quandra Rodgers, who leads the team in scoring at 12.8 points per game.