Down below, fans chanted “A-S-U” one final time. The Jaguars played its final game as Augusta State at Christenberry Fieldhouse, pulling off another bit of late magic.
The three ‘D’s – D’Angelo Boyce, Devonte Thomas and Devon Wright-Nelson – combined for 47 points and the Jaguars survived a late Francis Marion rally for a 69-67 homecoming win.
“There were no ‘A-S-U’ chants nine years ago. There were echoes,” said ninth-year Augusta State coach Dip Metress, referring to how far his program has come. Next season, Metress will turn a new chapter, coaching Georgia Regents University, pending a trademark lawsuit by Regent University.
Senior Travis Keels, who posted six points and eight rebounds, added: “It feels amazing to get the win in front of the ASU crowd for the final time. It’s our last time here. It’s just amazing.”
With the victory, the Jaguars (13-11, 8-9) improved to 113-15 at Christenberry Fieldhouse under Metress. Augusta State grabbed a 11/2-game lead over UNC Pembroke and Francis Marion for fourth place in the Peach Belt East Division with two games remaining – the Jaguars play Wednesday at USC Aiken and Saturday at Flagler. The top four teams in each division advance to the conference tournament.
Augusta State, with its kill-the-clock offense adopted two weeks ago because the team has only eight players, led Francis Marion (11-12, 6-10) by 16 at halftime. After two free throws by Ryan Weems, the Jaguars took a 67-60 lead with 36 seconds remaining. The game was far from over.
Mi’Kyel Nero swished a 3-pointer
for the Patriots. D’Angelo Boyce, Augusta State’s exhausted point guard who played all 40 minutes, followed with one of two free throws. Nero then knocked down two foul shots.
Augusta State led by two when Boyce went to the line with 2.3 seconds left to ice the game. He missed both shots, the second falling off the back rim to Nero. He pushed the ball across the half-court line, but Francis Marion couldn’t get a shot off before the buzzer.
“I had an opportunity to make some free throws when I was fatigued,” Boyce said. “I’m going to get in the gym and shoot more free throws. I just need to do it when I’m tired.”
Augusta State took Francis Marion out of its high-flying offensive attack with its own offense. The Patriots, who average a league-best 88.6 points a game, reached half its average with five minutes to play. Francis Marion shot 12 for 27 from the 3-point line, but the Patriots also posted a 13 of 22 effort from the foul line (59 percent).
With its molasses-slow offense, Augusta State shot better than 50 percent from the field for the third game in a row.
It’s a marked improvement for an offense that shot better than 50 percent in a game just twice before this season.
Thomas scored in double digits for the fourth time in five games, leading the team with 17 points. Wright-Nelson added 16 points, while Boyce chipped in with 14 points and nine assists.
Augusta State turned the ball over 13 times against Francis Marion.
“It’s always hard to change the offense at the end of the season,” Boyce said.
“Everybody’s been working hard in practice. By the time the conference tournament comes, we should be 100 percent on the offense.”