As Augusta State and Paine prepare to square off for their second, and final, meeting of the season tonight, one question stands out:
How big is this rivalry?
It depends on which school you talk to.
"Every game is important," Paine senior guard Brian Harper said. "Of course the Augusta State game is important. That's our city rival."
Third-year Augusta State men's coach Dip Metress said: "We definitely think it's a rivalry. ... I know a lot of people asking me for tickets."
Paine (3-1) is looking to snap a two-game skid to Augusta State. The Jaguars have won three of their past four against the Lions and lead the all-time series, 18-15.
"I don't know if it's a rivalry," Paine coach Ron Spry said. "We treat it like any other game."
In the past, this contest was referred to as the City Classic. The game date has bounced around the schedule. Five seasons ago, it was held on Martin Luther King Day, when students were in class. The past three seasons, the games have been held no later than December.
Paine assistant coach Willie Adams, who played for the Lions from 1992-94, said the game used to be held at the end of the season. Because of the date, he said it added importance.
"That was like our Duke-North Carolina right there," he said. "It's still got that flavor a little bit."
What tonight's game won't have is a large influx of students from both schools since the semester has already ended. Paine's students helped filled Carter Gym for the front end of the home-and-home series, back on Nov. 27.
In that contest, the Lions appeared to be cruising toward victory. Paine led 24-12 in the first half before falling apart and losing by 18 points.
Augusta State center Garret Siler and guard Ben Madgen each recorded career-highs in the win, with 23 and 22 points respectively.
Paine freshman guard Julian English scored 21 and Harper added 15. Seniors Chris Jackson, Daniel Lomax and Jeremy Overstreet combined for six points.
"They got some momentum and built on that momentum and were able to extend that lead," Spry said. "We've got to get better production from some of our senior players."
Paine will have to find a way to slow down Augusta State junior forward Tyrekus Bowman, the reigning Peach Belt Conference Player of the Week. Bowman leads the Jaguars and the league, averaging 23.2 points per game on 54 percent shooting from the field.
Reach Chris Gay at (706) 823-3645 or email@example.com.
IF YOU GO
When: Women play at 5:30 p.m.; men follow at 7:30
Where: Christenberry Fieldhouse
Women Records: Paine 3-3, Augusta State 6-2
Key Players: Paine-G Savoyia Barrett (14.2 ppg, 3.7 rpg), G Lakeisha Bell (12.3 ppg, 5.8 rpg); G Chantal Murray (5.3 ppg, 5.0 apg). Augusta State-F Tracey Paschal 12.9 ppg, 2.9 rpg); F Nicole Mealing (10.0 ppg, 5.5 rpg); G Deo Ngulela (5.9 ppg, 7.5 apg)
Men Records: Paine 3-1, Augusta State 4-2
Key Players: Paine-G Brian Harper (22.0 ppg, 6.8 rpg; F Chris Jackson (8.0 ppg, 6.8 rpg), G Daniel Lomax (4.8 ppg, 3.5 apg); Augusta State-F Tyrekus Bowman (23.2 ppg, 7.3 rpg), C Garret Siler (13.8 ppg, 8.5 rpg); F Ben Madgen (18.3 ppg, 15 3-pointers)