The Augusta University Jaguars took a 73-70 win over the Bowie State Bulldogs at Christenberry Fieldhouse on Thursday. More than 2,000 Richmond County fifth graders were in attendance as part of AU’s Education Day initiative.
“This is one of my favorite games of the year,” said AU Head Coach Dip Metress in a news release. “We work closely with Richmond County schools and it becomes another avenue where the students can learn about math and teamwork in relation to basketball. A special thanks to Queensborough bank for their sponsorship and get the ear plugs ready for us to have every fifth grader in Richmond county schools here to cheer on the Jags.”
Dale Hartenburg, assistant vice president for Campus Services and chief auxiliaries officer, echoed Metress’ comments. “This atmosphere is more like attending a college football game than a typical game here.”
AU’s starting five consisted of mainstays Ty’Shaun Crawford, Miguel Arnold, Tyree Myers, and new starters Darren Lucas-White and David Viti. AU lost graduate student Troy Cracknell in the offseason, and sophomore Ja’Queze Kirby is playing limited minutes due to a sprained ankle.
Lucas-White, a senior, was recognized before the game for joining the 1,000-point scoring club at Augusta, a distinction he achieved in the Dec. 3 loss to Virginia Union University 83-62.
Arnold knocked down an uncontested three to incite the young fans into a frenzy with 16 minutes left in the half, but that noise paled in comparison to when the 7-foot-one-inch tall Crawford unleashed a huge dunk on Bowie State’s rim a few minutes after.
Kirby came off the bench and looked like his old self, knocking down a three and roaring down the court make a big block on the other end. He played 26 minutes and notched nine points and a few clutch rebounds.
It’s been a small core of players making huge impacts for AU over the last few seasons, but freshman Dimitri Gardner got into the lineup early today and made his presence felt. The Winchester, Va. native notched four points in his first half stints on the floor.
The score was 42-31 in favor of the home team at halftime.
During media timeouts, elementary school students in attendance came down from the audience to play games like musical chairs, knockout and trivia. And their classmates ate it up.
The first question was, “What is a budget?” All three students got it right. Answer C, a plan for spending money (and not B. an animal found in Africa). Question two, “What is the best way to earn money?” was also answered successfully in unison.
Queensborough National Bank sponsored the event, and representatives pulled a random drawing at halftime awarding Lake Forest Hills Elementary School with a pizza party.
“This day is for you all,” the Queensborough representatives said. “This game is a reward for all your hard work all year long. Get up, get loud and have a good time. Go, Jags!”
The fifth graders kept the energy at a firm 100 throughout the entire game. The video board’s request to “Make Some Noise” was heeded each and every time.
In the second half of the game, AU’s starters found themselves in foul trouble early. David Viti had racked up four and Kirby, three. Crawford and Bowie State’s Anthony Carpenter got a little chippy and traded technical fouls as a result.
With those mainstay scorers in trouble, outside shooter Arnold helped to carry the scoring as the second half progressed. He would end the day with 19 points, shooting 3-9 from the three-point line.
The foul trouble allowed Bowie State to close the gap, and the score was 56-53 with eight minutes remaining in the game.
Darren Lucas-White took an elbow above the right eye which sidelined him from play for a few possessions, but he re-entered the game with five minutes remaining.
Bowie State took the lead 62-60 with four minutes remaining, their first lead since the opening possession. Bowie State’s Crawford drew his fourth foul amidst the back-and-forth scoring, and he retreated to the bench.
Lucas-White and Arnold chipped in a few points, and the game was all tied at 66 with 1:47 remaining. Arnold sank a huge three to bring AU within one as the final minute ticked down. Crawford drew defensive attention and dished to a flying Lucas-White for a clutch lay-up, bringing AU up 71-70.
Lucas-White then drew a charge an AU retained possession of the ball. Tyree Myers was fouled as well, and he made both free throws to bring up up 73-70 with 10 seconds left. Those would be the final points scored and AU survived the late flurry from Bowie State to climb to 6-1.
Myers’ six points from the free throw line were his only points all day. AU needed every one to clinch the win.
Augusta hosts Georgia Southwestern State on Saturday, Dec. 10 at 3:30 p.m.
Tyler Strong has written for several Augusta media outlets, and he currently works in broadcast operations for the PGA Tour and CBS Sports.