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The regular season culminated in two wins on Senior Night for Georgetown College women's and men's basketball. The Tigers scratched the St. Catharine Patriots and sealed their respective fates in the upcoming Mid-South Conference tournament in Frankfort.
The women are the No. 2 seed. The two other times the Tigers (21-8) have been in this position – 2001-02 and 2005-06 – they won the tournament. The road to the title will begin with a rubber match meeting with Bluefield College. Tip is set for 6 pm Thursday.
The men are the No. 3 seed. The Tigers (22-7) will also get a team it split with this season when they tip off at 8 pm Friday against No. 6 University of the Cumberlands (19-11). This is also a rematch of the title game from a year ago.
Both teams will remain the late game on semifinal Saturday. The women would tip at 4 pm against the winner of the Campbellsville University and University of the Cumberlands game, while the men would play at 8 pm against the University of Pikeville and St. Catharine winner. Finals are set with women at 2:30 pm and men at 5:30 pm.
The Tigers split the regular season games with the Rams, getting the most recent win at home 84-72. Both teams bring a different style of play to the table and whichever can enforce its will should have the upperhand.
Bluefield relies heavily on Tequila McNeal and Ashley White. Georgetown brings a more balanced attack with Devon Golden, Kourtney Tyra, Andrea Howard, Lizza Jonas and Devanny King. In the past several games, Tiger coach Andrea McCloskey has really seen her bench production step up as well.
"We are going to need everyone as we enter postseason," McCloskey said. "Our depth was a factor in our run at the national tournament this past year. I'm pleased to see the minutes we've been getting recently from Lindsay (Fultz), Jessica (Foster) and Haley (Armstrong). It will be key for everyone to be ready."
Georgetown heads into the tournament on a five-game winning streak and spent much of this season learning to play on the road. At times the Tigers have looked more comfortable outside of Davis-Reid Alumni Gym, including this past week's double-digit wins over Campbellsville and Lindsey Wilson.
They finished off the solid regular season with a sendoff to seniors Golden and Fultz and a big win over St. Catharine to avoid any tiebreaker conversation for second place.
During these past four-seasons, GC has yet to win a first round conference game. Golden and Fultz are ready for that streak to end and are looking to start another run deep into postseason. Getting the second seed may be just the right start. The Tigers are 2-0 at winning titles when being second in the conference.
Of course if anything can be learned from recent tournaments and the final week of this year's regular season is that nothing is predictable in the Mid-South Conference. Once you get past Cumberland University at the top, only a handful of games separate No. 2 through No. 6.
"This tournament is a mini national tournament," McCloskey said. "Without knowing this week's rankings yet, we currently have four teams in the Top 25 and two more receiving votes. We could realistically have five teams in the national tournament in the coming weeks.
"But our focus is this tournament. We need to take it a game at a time MJ (Melissa J Baker) does a really nice job with her team. We all know the Rams will want to come to this tournament and make their presence known as a new member. Hopefully we've learned from the past few years in this tournament as well as our experience at the national tournament."
For the full MSC tournament bracket, click here.
This is the first time Georgetown has been the No. 3 seed. The Tigers typically have been the top two seeds, but have been as low as the No. 6 seed in the 2000-01 tournament. They have only once missed advancing to the finals – 2004-05.
"Every year the Mid-South Conference is one of the best leagues in small college basketball," said GC coach Chris Briggs. "Anybody can win on any given night. You have to come ready to play."
Case in point, the final night of regular season action saw Campbellsville University defeat No. 4 Lindsey Wilson College in Columbia as well as University of Rio Grande beat Shawnee State, which is receiving votes.
The Tigers will get rival UC right out of the gate and it was a game against them in early January that really has helped push GC since then. Georgetown was 1-4 in conference play after losing in Williamsburg, but have responded by winning 13 of the final 15 league games including a sweep of University of Pikeville.
Injuries and illnesses have plagued this team, but Briggs hopes all of those struggles have brought his guys closer.
"When we play determined and focused, we've shown what type of team we can be," Briggs said. "No better time to display that than in postseason. We have a lot that we want to accomplish and if we play like we have for the better part of the past two months, we will be fine."
In almost a reverse situation, the Patriots took a mighty tumble following that win at home. Cumberlands has gone 5-10 in that stretch, falling from No. 1 in the country to not even receiving votes in the most recent poll. Their leader Antonio Bumpus missed a handful of those games due to injury and Briggs has no doubt that all regular season standings can be thrown out the window when the ball goes up Friday.
"It's Georgetown verse Cumberlands," Briggs said. "Nothing else will matter once play begins. This is a long standing rival. Coach (Donnie) Butcher is a Georgetown alum and the game means a lot to him as well."
Butcher, coach of the Patriots, was a Tiger in the mid-80s under then coach Jim Reid. This is his 13th season at the helm for Cumberlands.
For the full MSC tournament bracket, click here.