The Pacer women withstood it with strong defense late to beat Georgia Regents 60-55 on Wednesday night at Christenberry Fieldhouse.
In the first game since the death of the program’s all-time leading scorer, Meredith Legg Stapleton, USC Aiken (10-17, 8-10 PBC) clinched a spot in the conference tournament with its second win over rival Georgia Regents (9-16, 5-13) this season.
“It means a lot,” Pacers senior Porsha Martin said. “I’ve gone every year of my career. We’ve had our struggles this season, but knowing everyone comes in 0-0, it’s like a new season. Anybody can win.”
The Jaguars attempted to avoid their ninth consecutive loss when a 16-0 run gave them their first lead and resulted in an eight-point advantage with 9 minutes left.
The Pacers quickly responded with a run of their own and were back in the lead at 46-45 with 4:30 remaining when Mariah Durian hit a 3-pointer.
“It was tough to look up and see us down eight points,” Pacers coach Mike Brandt said. “We were able to get stops.”
USC Aiken also limited turnovers late and took advantage of its possessions, resulting in a 58-51 lead with 34 seconds left. A big blow came with 1:30 left when Courtney Mealing made a 3-pointer for a five-point lead.
“We made a run and got back into the game,” Georgia Regents coach Nate Teymer said. “We scored off their turnovers, but then we struggled getting stops.
“When it became a half-court game, we struggled.”
Martin emerged as a threat in the second half for USC Aiken, recording nine of her 16 points and six of her nine rebounds in the half.
Durian added 14 points, and Mackenzie Reese had 10 points and eight boards for the Pacers.
Jemimah Ashby led Georgia Regents with 15 points and four rebounds, and Marissa Mandeldove added 11 points and four assists.