Falcons fall short of Elite Eight

The third meeting this season between the University of Montevallo men’s basketball team and Peach Belt Conference rival Augusta State University lived up to its billing.

The Falcons had a chance to pull off their second upset of the fourth-ranked Jaguars this month in a tight two-point game with less than five minutes left.

However, Montevallo came up just short in the final minutes and Augusta State moved on to the NCAA Division II men’s basketball Elite Eight following a 79-71 win over the Falcons in the Southeast Region championship game March 16 at Christenberry Fieldhouse in Augusta, Ga.

The Falcons came up just short in their bid for the third Elite Eight appearance in school history following back-to-back trips to Massachusetts in 2006 and 2007.

“I thought our kids played really hard and they battled all the way down the stretch,” said Montevallo coach Danny Young. “They played really well, and it is hard to beat them at home.”

Meanwhile, Augusta State returns to the Elite Eight for the third year in a row.

Senior guard Freddy Little, a first-team all-Peach Belt selection, led the Falcons (25-8) with 23 points in his final collegiate game on 9-of-14 field goals, including 5-of-8 from 3-point range.

Fellow senior guard Mark Plaza broke the 20-point mark for the second game in a row. Plaza scored 20 points on 8-of-13 field goals and 4-of-5 free throws, but finished 0-of-4 from beyond the arc. Plaza finished with a team-high seven assists.

Little and Plaza were selected to the Southeast Regional all-tournament team.

Senior forward Gerald January finished with nine points and a team-leading six rebounds in his final game. Junior forward Cecil Coleman scored eight points and grabbed four rebounds.

Junior guard Tauras Dortch finished with three points on 1-of-6 field goals from 3-point range.

Ben Madgen led Augusta State with 28 points. Fred Brathwaite added 25 points.

The Falcons shot nearly 60 percent from the floor in the loss. The Jaguars also hit shots at a high percentage, as Augusta State shot 57 percent from the floor and 45 percent from beyond the arc.

Montevallo took its first and only lead of the game with Little’s 3-pointer just 30 seconds into the game.

Augusta State quickly responded with a 3-pointer of its own and led by as many as 13 points in the opening half.

Dortch hit a 3-pointer with 37 seconds left in the half to cut the lead to 37-30. A late foul on a 3-point attempt by Madgen allowed him to hit three free throws with no time left on the clock, which increased the Jaguars’ lead to 41-30 at halftime.

Little led the Falcons, who shot 50 percent from the floor, with nine points on 3-of-4 field goals from beyond the arc in the first half. Montevallo struggled with 10 turnovers in the opening half, compared to four turnovers by Augusta State.

Little scored seven points in the first six minutes of the second half to keep the Falcons within reach of the Jaguars.

Augusta State pushed its lead to 53-39 with 14:32 left in the game before the Falcons rallied with a 14-3 run to cut the lead to 56-53 following January’s tip-in on an offensive rebound with 7:01 left.

Montevallo made its final push a few minutes later as a 3-pointer by Little and a layup by Plaza cut the Jaguars’ lead to 60-58 with 4:23 left in the contest.

However, the Jaguars’ Daniel Dixon nailed a 3-pointer seconds later to push the lead back to five points and Augusta State led the rest of the way.