Flagler College women’s coach Erika Lang-Montgomery called timeout early in the fourth quarter to challenge her team. Flagler men’s coach Chad Warner substituted all five starters early in the second half to try to spark his team.
Both coaching strategies worked. But it’s the situations that explain the difference between the two teams this season.
The Flagler women were up by 10 at the time against cellar-dwelling USC Aiken and wound up defeating the Pacers 74-58 Wednesday night at Flagler Gymnasium to improve to 8-3, 6-1 in the Peach Belt Conference.
Alex Alford became the Flagler women’s career assist leader in the victory. With her game-high eight dimes, she moved into first place on the Saints’ all-time list with 372, breaking Nease High School coach Sherri Anthony’s record of 368. Anthony played for the Saints from 1978-82.
In the second game, the Flagler men were trailing the Pacers 58-40 with 16:37 left when five new players came off the bench and produced an 11-2 run to pull the Saints to within 63-51. But that’s as close as they would come in an 87-67 loss as the Saints continued to struggle in Warner’s first season, falling to 4-6, 1-5 in the conference.
“It’s a process,” Warner said. “But it doesn’t feel like we took many steps forward tonight. The only thing I know to do is to go back to work.”
The USC Aiken men improved to 7-4, 4-3. With the win the Pacers are 4-0 on the road. After trailing 8-2 early, they charged out to a 25-15 lead with 11:46 left in the first half and never looked back. The visitors shot 54.5 percent from the field, including 7 of 18 3-pointers and dominated the boards, outrebounding the Saints 39-29 and scoring 46 points in the paint.
“They whipped us in every phase of the game,” Warner said.
The Saints shot 50 percent in the first half but just 37 percent in the second half. They hit just 4 of 13 from 3-point range.
Five USC Aiken players scored in double figures, led by guard Doniel Dean, who had 18 points and nine assists. Damerit Brown led Flagerl with 14 points, while Austin Howard scored 12 and Vaughn McCall had 10. Chris Williams contributed nine points and nine rebounds, and freshman Sam Guenther of Nease came off the bench to score a season-high eight points.
“Three of our next four games are on the road, so it’s going to get tougher,” Warner said. “I know what kind of basketball is coming to Flagler, but it will be a process to get there. We have to keep fighting.”
In the women’s game, Flagler’s five starters all scored in double figures as the Saints bounced back from their first conference loss. Six-foot-5 center Tabitha Odabe, starting her second game, registered a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Malaysia Robinson had 13 points and seven rebounds, Alford scored 12 points and Tiffany Hodge and Bri Roberts scored 10 points apiece.
Center Emily Waters led USC Aiken (3-10, 0-7) with 14 points and eight rebounds.
“We were able to move the ball around,” Lang-Montgomery said. “Defensively I didn’t see enough fire. Some plays we fell asleep on. We can’t have those mental lapses. I called timeout to challenge them, because we weren’t playing like a team that wants to finish among the top teams in the league.”
The Saints ended the game with with a 17-11 run.
Flagler, which will be without starting forward Rayven Wade (11.1 points per game) for the rest of the season with a torn Achilles tendon, kept pace with the other top teams in the conference.
With Lander’s win over Francis Marion Wednesday, three teams remain with one conference loss. Flagler will face one of the others in North Georgia on Monday in the second game of a weekend road trip. First the Saints will visit Young Harris on Saturday.