USC-Aiken Pacers crash homecoming party, eliminate Patriots from PBC playoffs pt.1


Photo by: Austin Kemmerlin

6’1” freshman A.J. Jackson goes up for the dunk against USCA.

Brandon Rybak, Sports Writer

The gym was packed to maximum capacity and the crowd was jammed shoulder-to-shoulder ready to cheer on the Patriots. It wasn’t a clash of two Atlantic Coast Conference teams. It was the homecoming game for the FMU Patriots.

The Patriots laced up their shoes and hit the hardwood for their final time this season on Saturday, Feb. 21. It was supposed to be the finale to a day of FMU homecoming festivities, but the USC Aiken Pacers brought nothing to the homecoming party except for sour milk as they spoiled the day and escaped Smith University Center with an 80-68 win.

The Pacers scored the first points of the game and never looked back. The FMU Patriots didn’t lead the entire game. FMU shot 31 percent and was dominated in every aspect of the game in the first half. The Pacers had a commanding 21-point lead when the halftime buzzer sounded and the homecoming court took center stage.

The Patriots came out in the second half with a chip on their shoulder. The lead was 18-11 and, with half a game left to play, the Patriots flipped the switch and took off. They went on a 13-2 run to cut the lead to six with 6 minutes and some change left to play.

The capacity crowd was on their feet and bouncing with enthusiasm at the first sign of life from the hometown Patriots. However, after a quick timeout USC Aiken came out focused and prepared to finish what they started. With 3 minutes left, Dominick Early put the nail in the coffin by shooting a crowd silencing 3-pointer as the shot clock expired. The lead stayed in double digits, and the final home game for seniors David Brown, Luka Zivkovic and Dustin Jones ended in defeat.

“Both teams realized the importance of the game, and USC Aiken just handled it better,” Gary Edwards, head coach, said.

With the loss, the Patriots were eliminated from the Peach Belt Conference Tournament and the chance to play in the National Championship Tournament. FMU concluded their season on Feb. 25, 2015 with a trip to nationally ranked UNC Pembroke.