Lady Pacers heading to Peach Belt Tournament Championship Game

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Saturday, March 7, 2009.

AIKEN, S.C. - Third-seeded USC Aiken started the second half on a 13-0 run over the first five and a half minutes - building on an eight-point halftime advantage to a 21-point lead, then held on for a 73-57 Peach Belt Conference women’s basketball semifinal victory over second-seeded Clayton State on Saturday afternoon in Aiken, S.C.

USC Aiken (22-10) now advances to face No. 5 seed Lander in the 2009 Peach Belt Conference Championship game at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, March 8, at the USC Aiken Convocation Center. Clayton State (23-6) will now await word of a possible at-large berth to the NCAA Championships, to be announced on Sunday evening.

The Lakers went 0-for-7 from the floor in the opening minutes of the second half, allowing USC Aiken to build the 21-point advantage, and Clayton State shot just 27.6 percent from the field after intermission, hitting only 8-of-29 shots from the floor.

A balanced scoring effort by the host Pacers saw four players reach double figures, led by Kendra Chandler’s 15 points and Morgan Johnson’s double-double of 14 points and 13 rebounds. Megan Starnes chipped in 13 points and Meredith Legg added 11 points on 3-of-7 shooting from beyond the arc.

Clatyon State was led by Marie St. Fort’s 15 points and Dominique Jennings’ 13 points off the bench. Shanrika Hardeman added a game-high 15 rebounds, to go with eight points.

A back-and-forth first eleven minutes of the first half saw the higher-seeded Lakers take their last lead of the game on a Marie St. Fort four-point play with 9:22 left until halftime, putting Clayton State up, 21-20. USC Aiken’s Nakia Pinkney answered with a three-point basket to put the Pacers back in front, and the Pacers ended the second half on a 12-3 run to take a 38-30 lead into halftime.

The Pacers were nearly perfect in the first half, hitting 50 percent of their shots from the floor (14-of-28), including 4-of-5 three-pointers and 6-of-6 free throws. USC Aiken finished the game shooting 44 percent (24-of-54), but hit 7-of-13 shots from beyond the arc (53.8 percent) and hit 18-of-19 shots from the free throw line.