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LOCAL COLLEGE ROUNDUP: ASU men's, women's hoops sweep Claflin

April Thomas of Bainbridge led the Lady Rams with 28 points in Saturday's win against Claflin.

April Thomas of Bainbridge led the Lady Rams with 28 points in Saturday's win against Claflin.

ALBANY — April Thomas sat on the end of the bench, watching a nine-point lead against Claflin slip away in the final minutes.

With Albany State’s star player fouled out of Saturday’s game, Claflin shot their way back into the conference showdown and even put up a 3-pointer with 10 seconds left that would have given the Lady Panthers the lead.

However, the Lady Rams held on for a 69-66 victory to snap a three-game skid and resume their climb up the East Division standings.

“This was a must-win game, and we realized that,” ASU coach Robert Skinner said. “We had to step our game up after losing three in a row. That kind of took a lot out of us, so this was a must win for us (Saturday).”

The lead changed hands 11 times in the back-and-forth game, but the Lady Rams looked to be in control with three minutes left when point guard Mecca Frost hit a pair of free throws to give ASU a seven-point advantage.

But on the next possession, Thomas, a Bainbridge native and ASU’s leading scorer, picked up her fifth foul and watched as Claflin outscored the Lady Rams, 10-4, in the final 2:33 to nearly snap its own five-game losing streak.

Thomas finished with a game-high 28 points on 9 of 20 from the field and 6 of 13 from 3-point range, while Kourtney Alexander added 14 points and former Mitchell County star Kedeemya Cooper finished with seven points and 14 rebounds.

The Lady Rams (7-10, 5-4) stayed two games out of first place in the East Division with seven conference games still left in the regular season, while Claflin (3-15, 2-6) remained in last place in the division.

Saturday’s victory kicked off a four-game homestand for the Lady Rams, and Thomas isn’t giving up hope at a late-season comeback in the divisional standings.

“We are just going to have to pull together as a team and not just play two minutes here or two minutes there,” the sophomore guard said. “We are going to have to come out strong, stay on top of it and play solid D. It’s going to take us to just work really hard.”

The Lady Rams play again at home Thursday against Clark Atlanta.

ASU MEN 74, CLAFLIN 66: Former Albany Tech star Justin Wilcox poured in 21 points and grabbed seven rebounds to lead the Rams to their third straight win at home.

ASU (4-11, 3-6) started the season out 1-12 overall and 0-5 in the conference, but its recent hot streak of three wins in their past four games has them creeping up the East Division standings.

Saturday’s statement win was against a Claflin team that came into the game third in the divisional standings, but now ASU is just a game behind the Panthers and tied for fifth in the division with Fort Valley State.

Jaren Harris and Albany native Andrew Covin added 17 and 13 points, respectively, for the Rams, who hit 13 of 25 3-pointers in the game.

A trey from Wilcox with 12:20 left gave ASU a 55-37 lead — its biggest of the game and one that Claflin couldn’t recover from.

The Rams play again Tuesday at Brewton-Parker, where they will look for their first road win of the season.

DARTON WOMEN 73, MIDDLE GEORGIA 66: Playing on the road for the 10th time in their last 12 games, the nationally-ranked No. 15 Lady Cavs held off Middle Georgia to stay on top of the Region XVII standings.

Freshman Iesha Bonner led the way with 15 points and 12 rebounds, while Michelle Mitchell (13 points), Jasmine Wilson (12 points, 7 assists), Kadayasha Jones (10 points, 10 rebounds) and Tamarah Fisher (10 points) also scored in double figures.

The Lady Cavs (20-3, 12-2) have now won 10 of their last 11 games and have a two-game lead in the conference over a trio of teams heading a stretch where they play five of their final six games at home.

“We had to really hang tough (Saturday) to get out of there with a win,” Darton coach Lea Henry said. “This was a really challenging road swing with all of the good teams we had to play on the road. It was tough on them, being away from their home court and traveling. But we are really pleased and happy with where we are.”

Darton plays again Wednesday at home against Andrew College, which is winless in region play and 1-15 overall this year.

ALBANY TECH WOMEN 66, ATLANTA METRO 57: The Lady Titans held on to their all-important No. 8 spot in the Region XVII standings with Saturday’s win.

Albany Tech (11-11, 4-8) was led by Ashley Towns’ 17 points, while Lashay Lettingham and Shanice Williams each added 15 points.

With eight games remaining in the regular season, the Lady Titans are one game ahead of No. 9 East Georgia in the region standings, making Wednesday’s matchup between the two teams even more important considering the top eight teams make the region tournament.

Albany Tech will have a week off after Wednesday’s game in Swainsboro before returning home for games against Central Georgia Tech and Middle Georgia.

COLUMBUS STATE MEN 72, GSW 69: The Hurricanes lost for the ninth time in their last 10 games after giving up a late lead Saturday in Columbus.

GSW (7-11, 3-8 PBC) led 67-66 with 1:38 left, but three turnovers in the final two minutes and a missed 3-pointer at the buzzer by Jamon Hawkins cost the Hurricanes a much-needed victory.

GSW, which led for much of the second half and by as many as seven points, was led by Alan Arnett (18 points), Matt Shaw (16), Daryl Davis (13) and Michael Tankersley (11).

The Hurricanes return home Wednesday for just their second game in Americus in more than three weeks with a matchup against Lander.

COLUMBUS STATE WOMEN 75, GSW 54: The Lady Hurricanes extended their losing streak to seven games after falling behind 18-2 and never pulling closer than eight in the second half.

Kabrina Merriweather led GSW with 14 points and eight rebounds while Kayla Dayton chipped in 13 points for the Lady Hurricanes (3-5, 1-10 PBC), who play again Wednesday at home against Lander.

College baseball

PANAMA CITY, Fla. — Brandon Goldsmith threw a gem in his collegiate debut on the mound to lead the Darton baseball team to a 3-0 win in Saturday’s opener against Central Alabama, while Tallahassee Community College (Fla.) beat the Cavs for the second day in a row, ending a season-opening weekend for Darton (2-2).

In the opener, Goldsmith, a freshman from Hamilton, threw five innings and allowed just four hits, while sophomore Ryan Good picked up the two-inning save, allowing one hit and striking out one.

The Cavs jumped ahead, 2-0, in the second inning with a pair of two-out runs from Riliani Familia and Brandon Sharpe, while Cody Wofford singled in Casey James in the fifth inning to give Darton its third run.

In the nightcap, Darton exploded for four runs in the first inning on RBI singles from Wofford and Sharpe and an RBI double from Nate Farrell.

Tallahassee Community College, however, took a 6-5 lead on a Chad Mabini grand slam in the bottom of the third inning. Mabini, a freshman infielder, finished the game with a pair of home runs and five RBI.

Cameron Martin was the losing pitcher for the Cavs, allowing two earned runs and five hits in 2 2/3 innings and striking out five. Andrew Crumbley pitched 3 1/3 innings in relief and allowed no runs and five hits.

Kody Adams (2-4, run), Farrell (2-4, RBI, run, 2 2B), Sharpe (1-3, RBI, 2 runs, SB) and Ventavis Jerger (2-2, BB, SB) led Darton at the plate in Game No. 2.

The Cavs play again at 1 p.m. Saturday at home against Wallace-Dothan in their home opener.