Jags ready to bust into Final Four

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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. --- After finishing the past two seasons in the Bay State with a loss, Augusta State's Ben Madgen remembers the sting.

"We definitely know how much those games hurt," the senior All-American said. "We'd like our last game to be a win."

The fourth-ranked Jaguars are looking to make the third time the charm when they play in the Elite Eight tonight. Augusta State (29-3) faces Bentley at 8:30 p.m. in the MassMutual Center.

The winner advances to face the St. Joseph's (Ind.)-Cal Poly Pomona winner at 8:30 p.m. Thursday in the Final Four.

"We just need to leave everything on the floor," Madgen said.

"We've learned every game is important. Every game is vital," point guard Daniel Dixon said. "If you don't take it serious, you'll take the next flight out of Springfield."

Jaguars coach Dip Metress changed up the routine a bit this year. Instead of traveling on Sunday to Massachusetts -- like the team did the previous two seasons -- Augusta State held its final practice at Christenberry Fieldhouse and drove to Atlanta for an early flight the next day. The Jaguars took Monday off and practiced for 55 minutes Tuesday in the MassMutual Center.

"The off day was good," Metress said. "I think we're re-energized. They came in excited about playing in the Elite Eight."

The past two seasons, Augusta State has trailed by double digits in each of its Elite Eight matchups. The Jaguars came back both times, defeating Central Oklahoma and Christian Brothers. Metress would prefer his team not dig itself a hole again.

"That's not a real good recipe for success," he said.

Madgen, who was named an All-American on Tuesday by the National Association of Basketball Coaches, hopes his team's past experience will help.

"We know how tough it is to win," he said.

Augusta State, the Peach Belt Conference and Southeast Regional champion, is led by Madgen, who has taken his game to another level this month. In five March games, the all-time leading scorer in conference and school history is averaging 25.4 points a contest.

Bentley (25-6) won the East Regional as a No. 2 seed. The Falcons are led by Jason Westrol, the Division II Player of the Year, who averages 21.2 points a game.

Bentley coach Jay Lawson said he's concerned about Augusta State's interior play. He called slashing forward Fred Brathwaite (16.6, 8.2 rebounds) a tough matchup.

Brathwaite, who has played the past three weeks with an injured wrist, was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Southeast Regional.

"And that's before you get to the leading scorer (Madgen) and the point guard (Dixon)," Lawson said.

Metress said one key will be rebounding. Augusta State is second in the nation in rebounding margin (11.9) and has grabbed 428 offensive boards off its 853 missed shots.

Metress said another key for his team will be finding a way to get to the free-throw line. Augusta State has shot 899 attempts from the foul line, but Bentley averages only 13.7 fouls a game -- its opponents have only shot 437 attempts.


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