By Chris Whitaker, The Americus Times-Recorder
AMERICUS - Georgia Southwestern's woes continued on Thursday at the Storm Dome.
The Hurricanes blew a 7-point second-half lead and missed several opportunities to extend their lead down the stretch as Flagler rallied for a 67-63 win.
Anthony Sargent scored 17 points to lead GSW (3-4), and Chris Rawls had 15 points - including three dunks - and 12 rebounds in the loss.
Flagler was 9-for-9 from the free-throw line over the final 30 seconds to seal the win.
"It's disappointing because I thought we competed tonight," said coach Mike Leeder. "I was happy with how hard our guys competed and the effort they gave, but we had a couple of empty possessions, and we couldn't extend the lead."
GSW came in as the top free-throw shooting team in the Peach Belt, but was 7 of 16 for the game and 6 of 14 in the second half.
"We had the right guys shooting, but we picked the wrong night to miss them," said Leeder. "When you do that, you let teams hang around, and we didn't close it out. There wasn't a lot of margin for error, and that's one thing we've got to work on - closing games."
GSW started the second half on a 10-0 run that included back-to-back 3-pointers from Sargent to take a 41-34 lead around the 15-minute mark. Flagler answered with an 18-7 run to take a 52-48 lead when the game proceeded to go back and forth.
Sargent gave the Hurricanes a 57-56 lead on a layup when Flagler (6-7) scored the next five points. Sargent made 1 of 2 free throws after a technical foul was called to pull the Hurricanes within 61-60. Then down three, Evan Mobley's 3-pointer with around 20 seconds left was short.
Leeder said that same play - using Sargent as a decoy and getting Mobley the open three - worked against the Citadel in the team's exhibition.
Leeder wasn't pleased with the team's defense entering the game, and Flagler shot 67 percent in the first half and 57 percent for the game. John Pietkiewicz led all scorers with 22 points, and Ben De La Cruz added 14.
Flagler opened the game with a 11-1 run before GSW battled back to tie at 13 behind consecutive threes from Damayrius Adside, who finished with 11 points.
It was announced Thursday that Flagler and Montevallo (Ala.) will become PBC members starting next season.
"With two more good teams coming in, hopefully it will force Georgia Southwestern to raise the bar to be competitive," said Leeder. "Hopefully we'll step up as a school."
GSW is off until Dec. 30 when it hosts Lincoln Memorial before finishing season with 19-straight conference games.
PICTURED: Chris Rawls
PHOTO BY: Chris Fenn