Men's Basketball: Panthers top Piedmont 96-90 to finish regular season, eye upcoming USA South tournament

Men's Basketball: Panthers top Piedmont 96-90 to finish regular season, eye upcoming USA South tournament

DEMOREST, Ga. - LaGrange finished the regular season with a hard-fought 96-90 win over Piedmont in Cave Arena on Saturday.

The Panthers are now 18-7 overall and 9-5 in the USA South. The 18 wins are the most in the regular season by a Panther team since the 1992-93 season.

The Panthers closed out the season with two tough road wins and head into next week's USA South Tournament seeking their third straight title. Coach Kendal Wallace was asked if the Panthers are peaking at the right time.

"Not exactly, but we are playing well together and sharing the ball more. Our defense needs a lot of work to make a run in the tourney so it's back to work on Monday," said Wallace. "I am extremely proud of our accomplishments and how we've stayed together through quite a bit of adversity.

"Our upperclassmen have led us and I can't think of a better group to go battle for an NCAA tournament bid this week. Go Panthers!"

Justyn Olson once again led the Panthers. Coming off a career-high 36-point game Wednesday at Huntingdon, the junior guard led all scorers and five Panthers in double figures with 28 points. Drew Vanderbrook and Mark Wagner had 18 points each, while Alex Bonner and Mike added 10 each.

The game featured 27 lead changes and was tied on 10 occasions. The Panthers committed a season-low six turnovers and had a 23-5 edge off turnovers.

The Panthers shot 55.6 percent in the first half to lead 43-41 at halftime. In the second half, the two teams continued to exchange the lead.

Piedmont (15-10, 7-7 USA South) took its largest lead of the game, 72-67, with 7:39 left. Olson sparked an 11-0 run by the Panthers as they took the lead for good.

Olson had seven of the points, starting with a three-point play. He finished it with a steal and a lay in at the other end for an 82-74 lead with 4:43 left.

Three times the Lions cut the Panthers' lead to three points in the closing minutes. Vanderbrook answered with a three-pointer and a layup, while White sank two free throws with 19 seconds left for a 95-90 lead. Elijah Adedoyin's free throw sealed the 96-90 victory.

The Panthers are the fourth seed in next week's tournament at N.C. Wesleyan in Rocky Mount, N.C. They will face fifth-seeded Ferrum on Thursday at 5 p.m.