Now's your last chance

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Augusta's historic theaters have seen some of the world's greatest acts and movies and musicians throughout the years.

But the curtain falls tonight on one of the greatest sports teams this area has ever played host to.

The Augusta State University men's basketball team plays its last game of the year tonight at Christenberry Fieldhouse -- and the stakes have never been higher in the history of the school: If the Jaguars beat Clayton State tonight, they will be the South Atlantic Region Division II champions, and will advance to the Elite Eight -- the national championship round -- in Springfield, Mass., March 26-29.

Unless they do go to Massachusetts, and you go with them, this will be your last chance to see this very special edition of the Jaguars.

And anyone who has seen them play can tell you this crop of players is truly one for the ages.

Ask the Georgia Bulldogs. You know, the team that just won the Southeastern Conference tournament? Augusta State nearly beat the Bulldogs in Athens on Dec. 3.

Richmond Academy graduate Garret Siler -- who they should just call "Silo" -- at 6-11 is one of the top centers in all of Division II, and is among the national leaders in field goal percentage and rebounds.

Sophomore Ben Madgen, an Australia native, brings a scrappy international style and one of the region's top 3-point shooting touches.

Yet, the heart of this team is senior forward Tyrekus "A.J." Bowman from Tignall -- an Augusta native, a first-team All-American his junior year and a player of the year in the Peach Belt Conference for the second year in a row. Bowman truly does do it all: He's among the conference leaders in scoring, rebounding and even blocked shots.

But none of that does justice to Bowman's abilities. He's truly an artist on the hardwood stage, flying toward monster dunks or tipping in his own missed shot -- after beating everyone else to it on the far side of the basket.

And he's on a roll. His 33 points in the regional semifinal game Sunday night matched a career high.

"Bowman is just a beast," one opponent said after Sunday's game.

And to think, this beast, the heart of the team, was sidelined at the start of the season after September surgery to repair three holes in his own heart.

How he has gotten well!

So has Augusta State, which under coach Dip Metress has had two of the best seasons in a row in school history, with 24 wins each, and has never before advanced to the regional championship.

Tonight's the night. And A.J. Bowman and the other Jaguar seniors will never play here again. It's your last chance to see one of the greatest teams this area has ever fielded.

And to urge them on to the national championship.

Tonight's game is at 7 o'clock -- but come early, as parking is at a premium and seats are general admission. Tickets are $10. Christenberry Fieldhouse is at 3109 Wrightsboro Road.


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