Lady Jags oh so close

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A moral victory wouldn't replace the real thing Wednesday night.

Augusta State's Porsha White (center) battles for control of the ball against Lander's Tiara Good (left) and Tasheba Butler at Christenberry Fieldhouse. The Lady Jaguars hung tough but fell to the conference's top team.  Michael Holahan/Staff
Michael Holahan/Staff
Augusta State's Porsha White (center) battles for control of the ball against Lander's Tiara Good (left) and Tasheba Butler at Christenberry Fieldhouse. The Lady Jaguars hung tough but fell to the conference's top team.

The Augusta State women held the nation's second-best offense in check but fell short to Lander, 76-74, at Christenberry Fieldhouse.

The Peach Belt Conference-leading Lady Bearcats (11-4, 5-0) extended their winning streak to six games. Boasting the No. 2 scoring offense in Division II, with a 94.3 average, Lander came in having scored at least 107 points in three of its past five games.

Augusta State overcame a 14-point, second-half deficit and held the Lady Bearcats to 36 percent from the field.

"We can play when we want to," Augusta State forward Nicole Mealing said. "We didn't play good in the first half. We picked it up in the second half."

The game began with Augusta State's Deo Ngulela draining the first of two free throws before the tip-off because of an administrative technical foul on Lander for having center Stephanie Ponds in the starting lineup. Ponds sat on the bench in street clothes.

The Lady Jaguars faced an up-tempo offense that threw them out of sync in the first half.

The fast and furious pace forced Augusta State to take shots better suited for a YMCA pickup game.

Lander closed the half with a 22-11 run to jump out to a 39-28 halftime lead. It marked the most points the Lady Jaguars have allowed in the first half this season.

"We're a team that doesn't give up," Mealing said. "If we're down 20, we're still going to play hard."

Augusta State shot 30 percent in the first half and finished at 38 percent from the field, including a 14-for-21 performance from the free-throw line. Mealing posted team-highs with 15 points and 12 rebounds. Tracey Paschal added 12 points, while Porsha White had nine boards and seven points.

The Lady Jaguars overcame a 42-28 deficit early in the second half to take a one-point lead on a pair of Mealing free throws with 47 seconds remaining. Lander quickly responded with a three-point play from Andrea Butler.

Augusta State had two chances to tie or go ahead with 34 seconds left. White missed two free-throw attempts, but Lander's LaShonda Chiles also missed two foul shots. Paschal grabbed the rebound.

With nine seconds remaining, the Lady Jaguars pushed the ball ahead. Coach Greg Wilson wanted a 3-pointer, but Ngulela didn't see an opening. Mealing took the ball in the lane and, with a little contact, missed a shot in the lane. Augusta's Adah Wells grabbed the board in the lane and missed a 12-foot attempt off the rim as the clock expired.

"We got two great looks," Wilson said. "We took it down the middle and got hacked."

Lander was outrebounded, 62-36, but shot 16-for-20 from the line. The conference's leading scorer, Tiara Good, posted 23 points on 6-for-22 shooting, while Chiles added 23 points.

Augusta State (9-4, 3-3) will welcome No. 23 North Georgia on Saturday and formerly ranked USC Aiken on Monday. A trip to No. 24 Francis Marion awaits on Wednesday.

"This is a tough swing," Wilson said. "We have to keep our chins up. ... We need to bust somebody in the chops."

Reach Chris Gay at (706) 823-3645 or chris.gay@augustachronicle.com.


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