GAFFNEY, S.C. (Augusta University Athletics) — Underdog Augusta (23-8) had their work cut out for them, as Limestone was a perfect 30-0 coming into the game. The Jaguars would not be intimidated and prevailed in one of the biggest wins in school history.
The Saints were ranked No. 2 in both the USA TODAY Sports Coaches’ Poll and the D2SIDA Media Poll and were coming off their first undefeated regular season in program history. Limestone won their fourth Conference Carolinas Tournament Championship in the last five years and won the past two NCAA Southeast Regional Championships after making five-straight appearances.
“It’s good to get a win whenever you get a win in postseason play. I’m very proud of our team,” Head Coach Nate Teymer said. “It was a team effort. We had five girls in double figures, and it was one of those games where every time they made a run we kept responding to it. It’s just a good feeling.”
Senior Camille Gee led the way for Augusta with 20 points, her most of the season. Gee shot 75 percent from beyond the arc. Juniors Kayla Lovett and Breonna O’Conner both posted 15 points, with Lovett going a perfect 10-10 from the free-throw line and O’Conner grabbing six boards.
Senior Kariel Hutt posted her 15th double-double on the year and her 30th over two seasons in Augusta with 10 points and 14 rebounds. Sophomore Joshlyn Belcher posted 11 points with five boards off the bench.
“I treated it like another game. One game at a time is what I treated it like,” Hutt said. “I didn’t want to make it, just because they’re 30-0, I don’t think it really means anything. I just feel like if we play one game at a time, keep it going, and just treat it like any other game.”
Augusta shot 43.1 percent from the floor and 47.1 percent from three-point range, while holding Limestone to 34.3 percent from the floor and 31 percent from three-point range. The Jags managed to overcome a turnover deficit of 12 and outrebound the Saints by 17 on the night.
Limestone was paced by Jasmine Kearse’s 36 points and they jumped out on top early, taking an 8-2 score and extending it to as many as eight in the first quarter. Augusta came out strong in the second quarter on an 8-0 run to tie the game at 15.
With five minutes left to go in the half, Augusta would finally see their first lead of the game. The score remained tight through the remainder of the half, with Augusta taking a slight advantage, holding a 28-24 lead at the half.
The second half remained close and Augusta was able to build on its lead early in the third quarter, but the Saints quickly answered with a run of their own. Limestone retook the lead with about four minutes remaining in the third quarter, before Augusta’s strong shooting gave them back the lead once more. Excellent passing around the basket allowed the Jags to stretch their advantage to as many as eight and they led by six heading in the final quarter of play.
The fourth quarter remained scoreless for both teams until a three-point play by O’Conner put the Jaguars ahead by nine, their largest lead of the night.
A huge three from Belcher at the eight-minute mark, followed with another three-pointer by Lovett, put the Jags up by 15 late in the game. Limestone tried a comeback in the late stages of the fourth quarter, drawing the lead back down to five with about four minutes remaining in the game. The Saints continued to press, closing the lead to four with 25 seconds left to play off a Jaguar foul.
Augusta wouldn’t be denied as they went on to survive the final half-minute and complete the 79-70 upset, as the announcers called it the “upset of the season at the Division II level.”
The Jaguars are making their fourth NCAA Tournament appearance all time since the 1991-92 season and their first in the last eight seasons. Augusta prevailed to postseason play in 2002-03 and followed it with trips in 2003-04 and most recently 2007-08.
The Jags play in the second round of the NCAA Southeast Regional on Saturday, March 12 at 7:30 p.m. Augusta faces the winner of No. 3 Columbus State and No. 7 Francis Marion, both the Peach Belt Conference teams the Jags have met this year.
Francis Marion swept the Jags with two wins in the regular season and Columbus State and Augusta each took a win this season with the Jags winning in the regular season and CSU avenging it in the PBC Tournament Semifinals.
The southeast region tournament champion advances to the NCAA Division II Elite Eight March 22-25 in Sioux Falls, S.D.