GREENWOOD, S.C. - After a 45-point loss to Columbus State earlier in the season, Augusta State knew it wouldn't be easy playing the No. 1-ranked team again.
But the fourth-seeded Lady Jaguars at least picked up a moral victory this time around, falling to the Lady Cougars 79-63 in the first round of the Peach Belt Conference Tournament at Finis Horne Arena on Wednesday.
"I'm pleased, and I can't say that enough," Lady Jaguars coach Greg Wilson said. "That's an upset in our mind. We stayed focused. We executed the game plan ... We were not intimidated."
It hasn't been the easiest of seasons for the Lady Jaguars, who got started on the wrong foot when junior forward Katie Lawrence quit the team the week before the first game. Then, senior guards Amy Frantz and Kristina Smith followed suit, both leaving midway through the season.
The Lady Jaguars, who endured a 49-point loss at Georgia Southern in December, ended the regular season losing nine of their last 11 games.
"We missed out on a lot of our goals," Wilson said. "I take the blame for that. I'm very goal-oriented. When I don't meet them, I'm not very happy. We're going to get some very intensive recruiting done, and we're about to start a very intensive off-season training program."
Former Josey star Kellie Holland scored on a layup to stake Columbus State to an 18-6 lead. But four minutes later, Augusta State's Shemeika Henry scored on a driving layup. Tameika Bridges followed with another layup. Sabrina Jones hit a pair of baskets. Augusta State trailed 24-18 with 8:41 left until halftime.
Columbus State, though, ended the half on a 22-10 run and took a 46-28 halftime lead.
Augusta State committed six turnovers and an offensive foul in the first 2:57 of the second half. Then Isha Hicks swished a jumper to give the Lady Cougars a 55-28 lead.
The Columbus State lead grew to 30 before the Lady Jaguars cut it to 18 with a 17-5 run. Krystal Edwards made a layup that pulled Augusta State to within 15 with two minutes remaining.
Jones was able to take advantage of Columbus State inside the paint as she led the Jaguars with 17 points. Ernesia Wideman added 13 points, while Stephanie Edgerton had 10.
"When I get the ball, I just turn and shoot," Jones said. "I used my speed. That's mostly how I score, my speed."
As for next season, Wilson will have to recruit better shooters as his team was next to last in the conference in field goal percentage (.379) and last in 3-point shooting (.261).
Reach Chris Gay at (706) 868-1222.