Posted: Sunday, March 16th 2014 at 5:25am
North Georgia women's basketball team sees historic season come to an end
By staff reports
HICKORY, N.C. -– The 23rd-ranked University of North Georgia women's basketball team saw its historic season come to a heart-breaking end with a 72-70 loss to Armstrong Atlantic State in the NCAA Division II Southeast Regional on Saturday evening on the campus of Lenior-Rhyne.
Following a pair of free throws by the Pirates with just over five seconds left, a three-pointer just ahead of the final horn missed giving Armstrong the upset victory.
"I thought they (AASU) pushed the ball extremely well and gave us some trouble in transition defense," said UNG head coach Buffie Burson in the post-game press conference.
The loss ends North Georgia's historic season at 23-7. The 8th-seeded Pirates (21-7) will match up against 7th-seeded Limestone at 7:00 p.m. on Monday evening for the right to travel to Erie, Pa., for the NCAA Division II Women's Basketball Elite Eight on March 25 in Erie, Pa.
In a thrilling final seven minutes in which neither team led by more than one possession, the final points came when the Pirates had the ball with 31 seconds left and the score tied at 70-all after Cierra Jackson's baseline layup for the Nighthawks. AASU's initial go-ahead shot missed with 10 seconds left on the clock. After one offensive rebound and follow missed the mark, Brigitta Barta secured another offensive rebound on the possession and was fouled with 5.3 seconds left.
Barta made both free throws and North Georgia got the ball up the court quickly in time for a last-second three-point attempt by Kaylee Akin, which narrowly missed giving the Pirates the win.
North Georgia led by nine points on several occasions in the first half, but Armstrong battled back to cut the lead to two, 35-33, at halftime on two Barta free throws with three seconds before the break. In the second half, North Georgia led by four as late as 7:12 remaining on a layup by Stephanie Huffman, but Mauri Wells answered with a basket to bring the Pirates to within two, 57-55, with 7:02 remaining.
Two consecutive layups by senior Stephenie Coney gave the Pirates their first lead of the second half, 61-59, with 5:15 left, but Mimi Hill for North Georgia took the lead back with a three-pointer with 3:18 left to make the score 66-65 for the Nighthawks. Hill delivered a basket with 1:46 left to put the North Georgia back up by two, but Barta answered with a layup with 1:33 left that tied things up at 68 apiece.
A missed three-pointer by Akin followed by a quick basket in transition for Barta gave Armstrong the lead at 70-68 with 50 seconds left, leading to the tying bucket by Jackson and the last-second heroics by the Pirates.
Barta led the Pirates in scoring with 19 points on 7-14 shooting from the floor and 5-of-7 from the free throw line and also grabbed nine rebounds, while Tyler Carlson had a her first double-double of the season with 15 points and 10 rebounds to go with five assists.
Hill led North Georgia with a game-high 27 points on 10-16 shooting from the floor, including 2-4 three-pointers, while Stephanie Huffman added 21 points on 8-of-12 shooting from the floor and a perfect 5-of-5 from the free throw line.
"This team battled through adversity that came at us from all directions," said Hill. "We stuck together and fought through and it has been amazing to compete with this group of ladies."
"Playing alongside players like Mimi (Hill) and Jaymee (Carnes) has been a privilege and an honor," said Huffman. "You do not find many players like them so it truly means a lot to be their teammate."
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