AMERICUS - For the first time in school history, Georgia Southwestern has a Peach Belt Conference championship. The GSW men's basketball team secured the West Division title on Wednesday evening with a convincing 71-52 win over Columbus State in the Storm Dome.
"To be the first program to win one (in school history) is just amazing," said GSW head coach Mike Leeder. "I'm just thrilled for our guys. I think we put together a tremendous collection of kids who worked awful hard all year and seeing their excitement after the game really made it all worthwhile for me."
The Hurricanes controlled the opening nine minutes of the game, jumping to a 23-3 lead. GSW hit 8 of 12 shots during that span and forced four Columbus State turnovers.
The 'Canes extended the lead to 23 on two separate occasions, before taking a 44-22 lead into the locker room at the half.
GSW shot 57.1 percent from the floor in the opening 20 minutes and an even better 58.3 percent (7 of 12) from beyond the arc, while holding Columbus State to 29.2 percent shooting.
A 7-2 run to start the second half gave GSW a 27-point lead, its largest of the game (51-24).
Columbus State put together a 13-1 run over the next six minutes to cut the lead to 15 and eventually trimmed the lead to 12 with eight minutes to play, but that's as close as the Cougars would get.
An elated GSW bench and coaching staff watched the Hurricanes bring home the title over the final minutes.
"It's great for the school, it's great for the community and I'm glad we finally showed that Georgia Southwestern can win in the Peach Belt Conference – because I think a lot of people doubted that we could (when we made the jump to Division II in 2006-07)," said Leeder.
Issac Joyner was the only Cougar to score in double-digits, finishing with 13 points.
The Hurricanes cooled off in the second half, shooting 31.3 percent from the floor and 31.6 from beyond the arc.
GSW dished out nine more assists (20-11) than Columbus State and scored eight more points off turnovers (19-11).
Columbus State falls to 11-14 overall with the loss and 7-9 in the PBC. The Hurricanes are now 19-6, 12-4 in the PBC.
GSW looks for its 20th win on Saturday when Clayton State comes to Americus for a 7:30 p.m. contest on Senior Night.
"We were excited, but we want to keep it in perspective," said Leeder. "We don't want to just be satisfied and have it stop here. We're very close to solidifying an NCAA Tournament bid and that's our next goal."