GREENWOOD – JR Washington and Chris Tate combined for 41 points as the Lander Bearcats clinched a spot in the Peach Belt Conference Tournament, beating PBC rival Georgia College 80-71 Wednesday night on Senior Night in Horne Arena.
Lander improved to 11-17 overall and finished 8-11 in the Peach Belt, clinching fourth place in the PBC East behind Augusta University, UNC Pembroke and USC Aiken.
The Bobcats finished their season 15-13 overall, 9-10 in the conference.
The defending Peach Belt Conference Tournament champion Bearcats will travel to face the PBC West No. 1 seed Clayton State in Morrow, Ga., Saturday afternoon in the opening round (quarterfinals) of the league tournament. Clayton State edged Montevallo Wednesday night, 71-70, forcing a five-way tie atop the West with the Lakers earning the tiebreaker.
The tournament champion receives an automatic berth in the NCAA Division II Tournament.
Washington led Lander with 23 points in his final career home game. The senior guard is third on the school's career scoring list with 1,774 points, 70 points away from tying Clinton Cobb for second place.
Tate added 18 points for the Bearcats on six of nine shooting from the floor while adding two blocked shots.
It was the final home-court appearance for Washington and fellow senior Telvin Gabriel, who had five points and three boards.
Chaz Berry led the Bobcats with 19 points while Isaac Thomas and Kohl Roberts added double-doubles. Thomas had 15 points while leading Georgia College with 11 rebounds. Roberts added 11 points and 10 boards. Brice Booker added 13 points while pacing the Bobcats with four assists.
Georgia College got off to a fast start, building a 15-4 lead on Berry's 3-pointer with 13:14 left in the opening half.
Tate and Washington hit consecutive 3s, giving Lander its first lead of the game at 22-21 with 7:11 left. Washington made two more 3s, handing the Bearcats leads of 33-31 and 36-34 late in the half.
Tate and Washington closed the half with baskets as Lander led 40-36 at the break.
The Bearcats came out strong in the second half, using a 13-2 run to build a 53-38 lead with 14:47 left. Washington opened the run with a three-point play, Gabriel hit a layup, Tate and Purdie nailed 3s, and Jonsson made a layup.
Berry's short jumper bounced high off the back of the rim but dropped through the net, pulling Georgia College within 59-49 with 9:13 left. Booker rebounded a teammate's missed free throw, laid it in and pulled the Bobcats within single digits at 61-52 with 7:10 to go.
Washington and Purdie hit 3s in the next minute and Lander was back up by 13, 67-54, with 6:16 left. Tate's layup gave the Bearcats a 69-56 advantage just inside the five-minute mark.
Jonsson's 3 from the left corner handed Lander a 75-63 lead with 1:26 left. Jonsson added two free throws and a blocked shot to punctuate the win.