Augusta State coach Dip Metress came up with the correct ingredient down the stretch.
Despite the closest margin of victory in eight years, Augusta State claimed its ninth consecutive win over Paine in a back-and-forth matchup that came down to the wire.
In an emotional game featuring a record 2,103 in attendance at Paine’s new HEAL Complex, Augusta State held a tight lead throughout the second half that resulted in a 66-59 win Thursday.
“This team has many ingredients,” Metress said. “Some are good, some aren’t. I’m like the chef right now, trying to come up with the right sauce. We came up with a good ingredient when we needed it. The sauce was right.”
Metress said the ingredient was survival. Augusta State (10-5) held a lead no larger than eight through the end of the second half after Paine (6-10) climbed back to within single digits. But,
despite the close margin, the Jaguars never relinquished the lead.
“We got a lead and were able to hold on,” Metress said. “We played tough ball and made free throws down the stretch, and we secured rebounds.”
The Jaguars received 14 points each from Ryan Weems and Devon Wright-Nelson, while the two combined for 11 rebounds. Travis Keels recorded a double double with 10 points and 11 rebounds while playing some of his most physical ball this season, adding four blocks.
Devonte Thomas added 11 points for a Jaguars offense that shot 43 percent, including 46 percent in the first half.
The Lions were led by Sean Morgan’s 14 points and 13 rebounds. Mario Jordan had 19 points on 8 for 14 shooting, while adding two steals. Paine shot 42 percent, including 46 percent in the second half.
Augusta State went on two double-digit runs in the first half. After Paine jumped to a 7-0 lead, the Jaguars responded with a 10-0 run after a timeout for their first lead. Later in the first half, with the score tied at 26, the Jaguars went on a 13-0 run to end the half, leading 39-26.
“This game is always emotional,” Keels said. “We knew they wouldn’t lay down at the half, but we stayed strong and came back, and we were able to pull it out.”