Men's Basketball: Panthers stop Piedmont to pick up key USA South win

Men's Basketball: Panthers stop Piedmont to pick up key USA South win

LaGrange downed Piedmont 81-70 to pick up a key USA South victory in Mariotti Gym on Wednesday. The win was the fourth in the last five games for the Panthers, now 9-7 overall and 5-4 in conference play.

LC is in the middle of a stretch of five games over a seven-day period. The Panthers host Covenant on Friday in another crucial USA South game, then finish the stretch on Saturday against Brevard in a non-conference game.

"Really, really, proud of my guys coming out and getting a must win for us," Coach Kendal Wallace said. "They (Piedmont) were two games above us in the conference and we needed to have this win at home to propel us forward into some kind of positioning for first, second, or third place in the division to reach the conference tournament.

"We did a great job as a team tonight sharing the ball and taking good shots. We'll celebrate tonight and get ready for Covenant tomorrow in practice and play them on Friday night."

All five starters for the Panthers finished in double figures. Stephen Wagner led the way with a career-high 17 points, followed by Jamison McCray with 16. Travis Thompson had 14 and a game-high eight rebounds. Michael McCauley added 12 and Alex Bonner had all 10 of his points in the second half. Bonner also dished out a game-high six assists.

The Panthers never trailed in the game. They led by eight in the early going before Piedmont (9-8, 6-4 USA South) drew within a point, 21-20, with 6:11 left in the first half. LC scored on its next five possessions to build a 34-22 lead. The Lions cut the deficit to five, 35-30, by halftime.

In the second half, the Panthers used an 8-0 run to build their largest lead of the game. Bonner's jumper off an assist from Wagner put LC up 64-48 with 7:52 remaining. The Lions got within five, 75-70, with 49 seconds left. But the Panthers hit six free throws for the 81-70 final. LC scored 11 of its final 13 at the line over the final 2:24.

The victory avenged an earlier last second 70-68 loss to the Lions on Jan. 3. The Panthers closed within a half game of Piedmont for second place in the West Division.