Pacers Knock Off No. 1 Clayton State, Advance to PBC Championship Game

AIKEN, S.C. – A pair of free-throws by Triahna Harris with just over 17 seconds remaining in overtime gave the 12th-ranked University of South Carolina Aiken women's basketball team (26-4) just the edge they needed to knock off a top-two team for the second time in a week, this time taking national No. 1 Clayton State (29-1) into an overtime thriller where the Pacers defeated the Lakers 73-72 in the second women's semifinal game of the 2011 Peach Belt Conference Tournament at the Convocation Center Saturday afternoon.

Wearing their road-reds due to being the lower seed as the PBC East Division's No. 2 seed, the Pacers upset the PBC West's No. 1 seed Lakers to down a top-25 team for the fourth time this season. The victory was also the squad's 26th win of the season, a mark that has never been achieved by a previous Pacer women's basketball squad at any level to date.

A quartet of Pacers finished the contest with double-digit points as PBC All-Conference selection Hannah DeGraffinreed (Raleigh, N.C./Merrimack) led USC Aiken in scoring with 16 points. PBC Freshman of the Year Kayla Harris (Raleigh, N.C./Wakefield) and Nakia Pinkney (Orangeburg, S.C./Orangeburg-Wilkinson) both scored 14 points while Triahna Harris (Springfield, Va./West Springfield) ended the game with 12.

Clayton State's Brittany Hall led all scorers with 22 points in the overtime loss, while Drameka Griggs added 13. Tanisha Woodard chipped in 11 points of her own.

USC Aiken entered halftime with a 30-24 lead after never trailing to the undefeated Lakers in the opening half of the game. The Pacers led by as many as 11 points at one point in the opening stanza before settling for the six-point lead heading into the locker room.

With five minutes remaining in regulation, the Pacers found themselves clinging to an eight-point (62-54) lead after Deandra Schirmer (Holton, Kan./Cloud County) sank a layup.

The Lakers closed to within one point (62-61) over the next two and a half minutes before Hall hit a three-pointer from the left side to give Clayton State its first lead of the game at 64-62 with just over two minutes left on the game clock.

Mia Antoine (Stone Mountain, Ga./Dominion Christian) tied the game just moments later when she was fouled on the ensuing in-bounds play and deftly sank both her free-throws.

A steal by Triahna Harris gave USC Aiken a chance to claim the victory in regulation as she streaked down the court, but she was called for a charge with 24.5 ticks left on the clock, giving the ball back to Clayton State on the far end of the court.

The Lakers made it down the court with plenty of time left in the game but three shot attempts, including two layups, banked off the rim and harmlessly to the ground as the clock expired sending the game into a five-minute overtime period.

USC Aiken fell behind 70-68 in the opening minutes of overtime, but Triahna Harris  and her fellow seniors would make sure the Pacers did not roll over. Streaking down the court in similar fashion to when she was called for a charge, Triahna sank a difficult layup and this time drew the foul on the play.

She nailed her first free-throw of the night to give a narrow 71-70 lead back to the Pacers with just over a minute and a half left, but Clayton State would answer by traveling down the court and giving the ball to Woodard who pulled up with a made jumper to pull ahead by one.

Triahna Harris remained perfect at the charity stripe (3-3) after hitting the most important pair of free-throws of the night to give USC Aiken the one-point lead at 17 seconds on the clock. The Pacers kept the Lakers at bay as the seconds clicked off the clock towards the end of the period to claim the win and advance to the 2011 PBC Tournament championship game.

As a team, USC Aiken ended its effort shooting 73.3 percent (22-30) from the charity stripe and was 22-67 (32.8 percent) from the field while Clayton State hit on 55.8 percent (24-43) of its shots.

With the victory over the No. 1 Lakers, head coach Mike Brandt and the Pacers advance to the championship game for the third time in program history where they will face the West Division's third-seed, Georgia College on Sunday, March 6 at 2 p.m. USC Aiken last made it to the championship game in 2009 where they fell to a strong Lander squad 64-53.