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USC Aiken earns first PBC win, upsetting Lander in final seconds 66-64

USC Aiken earns first PBC win, upsetting Lander in final seconds 66-64

GREENWOOD – Star Toomey's only basket of the afternoon was a game-winner with 3.6 seconds left as USC Aiken recorded its first Peach Belt Conference win of the season, upsetting the Lander Bearcats 66-64 Saturday at Horne Arena.

Lander fell to 13-4 overall, 8-3 in the PBC. The Pacers improved to 4-13, 1-10.

The Bearcats fell into a third place tie in the Peach Belt standings with Francis Marion, as North Georgia (9-1) and Flagler (9-2) are now the top two.

The loss snapped a 15-game home winning streak for Lander.

The Bearcats lost despite an outstanding all-around game by Chelsea Mitchell, who had 25 points on 11 of 19 shooting from the floor while also leading the team with 10 rebounds, six steals and five assists.

Ariana Sanders was Lander's only other double-figure scorer with 11 points. Victoria Baldwin added nine points for the Bearcats while Jessica Harris contributed seven points while sharing team-high honors with five assists.

Senior Breshay Johnson scored eight points and passed Ty'Hesha Reynolds into second place on Lander's all-time scoring list with 1,666 career points.

Melyk Taouil and Marissa Bruce led the Pacers with 18 points apiece, Kyrie' Chandler scored 16 points, and Phenecia Howard added 10 points. Toomey, who made one of four shots from the floor, led Aiken with seven rebounds while Sade Johnson had four assists.

Lander lost despite having a 43-30 edge on the boards, including 21 offensive rebounds.

Johnson's two free throws with 19.7 seconds left tied the game at 62 as the Bearcats rallied from a five-point deficit in the fourth quarter.

Aiken played for the last shot and Bruce found Toomey open in the lane and she hit a go-ahead turn-around jumper giving the visitors a 66-64 lead with 3.6 seconds left. It was Aiken's first made shot since Taouil's basket at the 5:12 mark, snapping an 0-for-7 streak.

Lander inbounded in front of the bench, getting the ball to Mitchell. Her shot with less than two seconds to go bounced off the front of the rim.

Howard's three-point play gave USC Aiken its first lead of the game at 14-13 with 2:39 left in the first quarter and Taouil's basket made it 16-13. But Lander closed the period with Baldwin's game-tying 3 from the left corner, a Christal Williams steal and layup, and Johnson's bucket in the paint for a 20-16 advantage going into the second quarter.

Howard stole a Bearcats pass and was driving in for a layup that could have pulled Aiken within 28-27. But Ariana Sanders stripped the ball from her under the basket and got the ball to Harris for a fast-break layup, resulting in a three-point play giving Lander a 30-25 lead.

Sanders followed with a 3, and Mitchell collected a steal leading to a layup and three-point play extending Lander's lead to 37-25 halfway through the second period.

But the Pacers finished the first half strong, with Bruce hitting a pair of 3s, and Kyrie' Chandler and Taouil adding one apiece as the visitors closed within 40-37 at the intermission.

Aiken opened the second half the same way it ended the first, with Taouil and Chandler each hitting 3s to put the Pacers on top 43-40.

With the game tied at 45, Mitchell swished a long jumper, Sanders made her second 3-pointer of the third quarter, and Harris added a steal and layup to give Lander seven unanswered points and a 52-45 lead.

But the Pacers closed the third period with a 7-0 run of their own to take a 55-52 lead going into the final period. Chandler started the run with a 3 and Taouil finished it with a three-point play.

Howard's 3 from the right corner extended Aiken's lead to 59-54 just inside the eight-minute mark. Taouil's long jumper just inside the arc kept the Bearcats lead at five, 63-58, with 5:12 to go.

Johnson scored twice off passes from Harris to pull Lander within 63-62 with 3:22 to go. But the Bearcats missed 3-point attempts on three consecutive possessions while Aiken misfired on four shots in a row as the score remained 63-62 with under 40 seconds to go.

With 36 seconds left, Bruce made one of two free throws to extend the Pacers advantage to 64-62.

Lander got the ball down low to Johnson, who was fouled as she attempted a shot and made both free throws, tying the game at 64 with 19.7 seconds to go.