It has happened only once in the 25-year history of the Peach Belt Conference tournament – the same school winning both the men’s and women’s championships.
Columbus State accomplished that feat in 2000. Now the Cougars and Lady Cougars have a chance to do it again this weekend at the Lumpkin Center.
The Lady Cougars, who have won the PBC tournament each of the past two seasons, are the official host as the highest-seeded women’s team from the Western Division to win their first-round game. Therefore the women will be playing the later set of games for both the semifinals on Saturday and the finals on Sunday.
We have played really well in our building and in this tournament the last two seasons, and we hope that continues this weekend.
Jonathan Norton, CSU women’s coach
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The semifinals begin with the Lander and Montevallo men at 1 p.m., followed by the CSU and Augusta men at 3:30 p.m. The CSU women face Augusta at 6 p.m. with Lander and Clayton State women tipping off at 8:30 p.m.
Home sweet home
The CSU women (23-4) have dominated at the Lumpkin Center, winning 31 straight games, a school and conference record.
“It’s huge for us to be the host of this tournament,” CSU women’s coach Jonathan Norton said. “We have played really well in our building and in this tournament the last two seasons, and we hope that continues this weekend.”
The Lady Cougars are also on a hot streak overall, having won 10 straight. That streak started after a stretch in which CSU lost 3-of-4, including a 79-72 loss at Augusta (22-7).
That game came right after a loss at North Georgia during which Norton collapsed and had to be taken to the hospital with elevated high blood pressure. He missed the game at Augusta three days later.
CSU won the next game at home against Lander, then lost at Young Harris. After that, a team meeting was held. Since that point, CSU has been blowing teams out, winning by an average of 15.6 points per game.
But beating Augusta won’t be easy. The Lady Jaguars’ 79 points against CSU was the most the Lady Cougars have given up this season. They are led by Breonna O’Conner, who averages 15.2 per game. Kariel Hutt averages almost a double-double with 14.2 points and 9.6 rebounds.
"Augusta is a really strong team," Norton said. "They have an outstanding post player and enough good pieces around her to be very dangerous."
Michelle Mitchell leads CSU in scoring at 19.8 per game. Ashley Asouzu is also just shy of averaging a double-double at 9.6 points and 9.7 rebounds.
The Cougars (21-6) will be looking to get off to another hot start. They set a PBC tournament record last Sunday in scoring 64 points in the first half against Francis Marion.
CSU just missed breaking its own full-game scoring mark of 105 points as it beat Francis Marion 101-89.
The win last weekend was CSU’s fifth straight. The Cougars used that streak to catch Montevallo and win a share of the PBC regular-season title.
But one of their six losses this season came at Augusta as the Jaguars held on for a 81-77 victory.
Augusta (17-10) has also won five straight, including an 84-76 victory over Young Harris last weekend.
"Augusta is a very talented and well coached team," CSU men’s coach Robert Moore said. "They have been hitting their stride down the stretch of the season and have been a very good tournament team over the years."
Augusta is led by Keshun Sherrill, who averages 23.3 points per game. CSU is led by Cam Baker at 19.9
PEACH BELT SEMIFINALS
at Lumpkin Center
Lander vs. Montevallo, 1 p.m.
Columbus State vs. Augusta, 3:30 p.m.
Columbus State vs. Augusta, 6 p.m.
Lander vs. Clayton State, 8:30 p.m.