News 12 @ 11 Sunday March 9, 2008
AIKEN, S.C. – It took three overtimes and a clutch foul-line jumper from All-Peach Belt Conference (PBC) Team member Michael Sloan, but Clayton State University took home its first PBC Tournament Championship with an 89-87 win over host USC Aiken. The Lakers are the first team to win four games in the PBC Men’s Basketball Tournament, knocking out No. 1 seed USCA, No. 2 seed Augusta State University and No. 3 seed Georgia College & State University along the way.
After Jeremy Fears hit a free-throw to tie the game 87-87, Sloan dribbled around a screen from the left wing, got into the key and knocked down a foul-line jumper for the eventual game-winning points with 2.7 ticks left. A desparation three by Fears fell well short at the buzzer.
The teams got increasingly cautious as the game drug along. Each team had nine in the first overtime, four in the second overtime, and Clayton out-scored the Pacers 5-3 in the third extra frame to receive the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Leading Clayton in points was Bernard Fields with 20, aided by 18 from reserve forward Will Lewis. Sloan’s game-winner gave him 16, and Tracy Williams fouled out in regulation with 10 and six assists.
The Lakers shot an astronomical 58.6 percent from the floor (17-29) in the first half, and added a perfect 7-of-7 from the line. Lewis led Clayton State at the break with 12 points. Fields added another 10 to the cause. USCA’s PBC Co-Player of the Year Chris Commons led all scorers at the half with 15 points. The forward managed just one rebound in the first stanza.
The back-and-forth game was busted open by a 16-3 run starting at the 10:43 mark of the first half. A three-point play by Fields started the run, with a Tracy Williams layup capping it with 4:29 left in the half as the Lakers led the game 44-36.
The Lakers nearly gave away the game after they were up by 14 with 7:31 left at 65-51. The Pacers’ home crowd got them back in it, aiding a 19-4 run capped by a pair of Commons free-throws. Clayton’s Cordaryl Ballard hit one of two attempts to get the tie at regulation.
Commons was held scoreless during all three extra frames, locked in most of the time by the Lakers’ Brian Kelly. The game was the longest in PBC Tournament history, and the first overtime championship game in league history as well.
Kingsley Oguchi hit 6-of-13 three-point attempts en route to a game-high 24 points. Commons added 21, with Job Casimir adding 18 and Jeremy Fears adding 15 points with seven boards and six assists.
The Lakers improve to 17-14 on the season, while the Pacers drop to 27-3.