After winning the Peach Belt Conference regular season title a day earlier, Augusta State's players and coaches gathered at head coach Dip Metress' house Sunday afternoon for a joyous feast.
The fifth-ranked Jaguars (23-4) won their second conference title in three years after clobbering Georgia Southwestern on the road, 95-63. Later Saturday night, Metress learned his team had won the outright championship after USC Aiken lost at home to Georgia College & State.
"We're going to enjoy it and celebrate it," he said.
Augusta State also took another step toward locking up the Southeast Regional No. 1 seed and holding the first three rounds of the NCAA Division II Tournament at Christenberry Fieldhouse. With one win in this week's Peach Belt Tournament, the Jaguars likely will secure their bid. But Metress said his team wants to focus on winning more than one game.
"Our goal now is to win the Peach Belt Conference Tournament," he said. "If somebody beats us, it's because they're better than us."
Augusta State will begin tournament play at 1 p.m. Friday at the USC Aiken Convocation Center. The top-seeded Jaguars will face either No. 8 Lander or No. 9 Columbus State. Augusta State swept both in the regular season.
USC Aiken will open the tournament at 7 p.m. Friday as the No. 2 seed. The Pacers (21-6) will play host to the winner between No. 7 seed Clayton State and No. 10 seed Georgia Southwestern. USC Aiken swept both in the regular season.
Pacers coach Vince Alexander gave his players Sunday off after their loss to the Bobcats and told them to come back today with a positive attitude.
"We better be ready to play," Alexander said. "This is the time of year we need to be stepping up our game and doing the small things, like making free throws."
Augusta State junior guard Ben Madgen finished the regular season with the conference's top scoring average (18.7) ahead of USC Aiken's Chris Commons (17.4). Jaguars senior center Garret Siler (16.3 points, 8.0 rebounds) is one of the league's hottest players. He's scored in double digits in 15 consecutive games, including 24-point outings in the Jaguars' past two games.
On the women's side, USC Aiken (20-10) opens play at 7 p.m. Thursday as the No. 3 seed.
The Augusta State women, who finished the regular season at 5-22, enter the tournament as the No. 10 seed.
Reach Chris Gay at (706) 823-3645 or firstname.lastname@example.org
PEACH BELT PAIRINGS
At USC Aiken Convocation Center
Championship games set for Sunday
#8 Lander vs. #9 Columbus State, 5 p.m.
#7 Clayton State vs. #10 Georgia Southwestern, 7
8-9 winner vs. #1 Augusta State, 1 p.m.
#4 GCSU vs. #5 North Georgia, 3
#3 Armstrong Atlantic State vs. #6 Francis Marion, 5
7-10 winner vs. #2 USC Aiken, 7
#8 UNC Pembroke vs. #9 North Georgia, 1 p.m.
#7 Columbus State vs. #10 Augusta State, 3
8-9 winner vs. #1 Francis Marion, 1 p.m.
#4 Armstrong Atlantic State vs. #5 Lander, 3
7-10 winner vs. #2 Clayton State, 5
#6 GCSU vs. #3 USC Aiken, 7