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Hoops seasons exit stage left

By Nick Phillips

March 15, 2012

Photo by NIck Phillips
UNCP women's basketball senior Domonique Washington walks off the floor donning the Black and Gold for the final time following the Lady Braves' loss to USC Aiken in the semifinals of the PBC Tournament on March 3.

The UNCP men's and women's basketball teams both saw their 2011-2012 seasons come to a close during the 2012 Peach Belt Conference Tournament hosted by Columbus State in Columbus, Ga., during the opening days of March.

The men's team, who entered the tournament as the No. 4 seed from the East Division, was knocked out in the opening round on March 2, falling 72-64 to the West Division's No. 1 seed, and the eventual men's tournament champion, Montevallo.

The UNCP women came into play as the East's No. 3 seed, and the Lady Braves won their first game of the tournament on March 1, blowing past host-school Columbus State for a 66-48 win.

The victory gave the women's team its first victory in the PBC Tournament's quarterfinal round since the tournament at the end of the 2002-2003 season eight years ago.

The women's wave of success was halted on March 3, however, when they ran into East No. 1 seed USC Aiken, who also came into the matchup as the ninth-ranked team in the country.

The UNCP women fell 54-41 in the semifinals to end their season.

Final look

For the men, they end the season with an overall record of 17-12 and an 11-7 record inside PBC play.

The Braves will lose four seniors from this season's squad - Marcus Heath, Nate Priest, Mike Robinson and Miguel Starkey - but will return most of their nucleus.

The ladies finished off their campaign with an overall record of 16-12 and a 12-6 record in PBC play.

Only two seniors will exit the program for the Lady Braves this offseason, DeDe Cotten and Domonique Washington, but the departures will leave UNCP looking to fill both backcourt positions.

The women rolled off a five-game winning streak during the season, a new program-high, while the men had two separate four-game winning streaks this season.

Photo by NIck Phillips
Lady Braves freshman Jazmine Kemp forces up a shot through the USC Aiken defense in UNCP's 54-41 loss on March 3.
Inside PBC play, the women tallied a program best 12 conference wins while going 12-6 overall in PBC play. The men finished with an 11-7 PBC record in 2011-2012.

Inside the English E. Jones Center, both teams held home court advantages, with the men finishing 12-4 at home and the women tallying a 9-3 mark.

The men will return three of their top four scorers next season, including leading scorer Shahmel Brackett, while the ladies return leading scorer Courtney Bolton, who missed the final month due to a concussion.

Anywhere across the country, tournament time is a special tradition on the calendar.

The 2012 PBC Tournament in Columbus, Ga., was no different.

The sounds of competing bands, cheerleaders and fans filled the Frank G. Lumpkin Center on Columbus State's campus.

Popcorn and other smells flowed from the concession stands.

But the real treat everyone came to see was out on the court.

A total of 16 teams - eight men's and eight women's - came to town eying the PBC Champi- onship trophy. Only two teams walked out with one.

Over four days, the gym was filled with sounds of sneakers squeaking, coaches yelling, balls bouncing and players look- ing to perform their bestduring crunch time.

For the UNCP men, the run was short-lived, as the Braves fell in their opening round, quarterfinal matchup to eventual men's champion Montevallo.

The UNCP women advanced past the quarterfinal round for the first time in eight years when they defeated host team Columbus State, but the Lady Braves were knocked out in the semifinal round, losing to the eventual women's champion USC Aiken.

Happiness and heart- break - March basketball's two main ingredients.

The UNCP women's basketball team shot just 34 percent and could not stop a bigger, more physical USC Aiken squad, as the Lady Braves were dispatched in the semifinals of the 2012 PBC Tournament by a 54- 41 score on March 3 in Columbus, Ga.

UNCP saw a number of firsts come out of this season, including 12 wins in PBC action under head coach John Haskins, as well as their first trip to the PBC tournament semifinals under Haskins' guidance.

UNCP finishes the 2011-2012 season with a 16-12 overall record and a 12-6 clip in PBC play.

The team won a PBC Tournament game for the first time since the 2002-03 season and had won eight of their last nine games prior to USC Aiken loss, including a five-game winning streak, the longest winning streak since the 2006-07 season.

In addition to shooting just 34 percent from the floor, the Lady Braves fin- ished only 6-of-24 (25 per- cent) from three-point range.

UNCP's scoring woes can be summed up in one line from the stat sheet. In their quarterfinal win over Columbus State, The Lady Braves had 41 points at halftime on the way to a 66- point night. Against USC Aiken, UNCP had just 19 points at the half.

"I just felt like we were very solid defensively, but the thing that hurt us is that we struggled to score," Haskins said after the game.

"We had a couple of solid shots in the paint, but we couldn't finish on a number of shots," he added.

In her last game donning the Black and Gold, senior Domonique Washington was the only Lady Brave to score in double fig- ures, finishing with her third double-double of the season with 11 points and a game-high 10 rebounds in the loss.

Washington seemed content with her career coming to a close, saying that that it has been a "great two years" at UNCP.

"I can't really explain the feeling; it's crazy. I can't really believe it, but I knew this day would have to come," she said.

Fellow UNCP senior DeDe Cotten notched a nine-point, six-rebound performance in her last game on the floor as well.

Photo by NIck Phillips
UNCP senior DeDe Cotten walks off the floor donning the Black and Gold for the final time following the Lady Braves loss March 3.
A pair of Lady Braves, junior Amelia Partin and freshman Jazmine Kemp, each tallied eight points, while Kemp grabbed three rebounds, two steals and an assist. Partin pulled down three rebounds and had two assists.

The only other Lady Brave to find her way into the scoring column was junior Taylor Gallentine, who scored five points, while also grabbing six rebounds and passing put three assists.

The Lady Braves had to wait nearly five minutes into the contest before they finally collected their first basket, but after the slow start, the first half proved to be a back and forth affair until the final minutes when USC Aiken pushed the halftime advantage to 10.

Both teams struggled from the field in the opening 20 minutes, as the Lady Pacers shot just 27.3 percent but hit 5-of-11 three-point attempts, while the Lady Braves fared slightly better, shooting at a 30.4 clip but connected on only 2-of-10 from long range.

USC Aiken, who never trailed in the contest, finally grabbed their first double-digit lead in the second half's first two minutes before the Lady Braves chipped away at the lead over the next eight minutes.

The Lady Braves connected on a pair of three-pointers from Washington and Cotten to pull the deficit to 40-32 with 11:09 to play, but that would be as close as the Black and Gold would get.

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Updated: Monday, March 26, 2012
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