PEMBROKE, N. C. – Sophomore Dee Dee Deshazer scored a game-high 17 points as nationally-ranked Columbus State University scored the first 17 points in the game in its Peach Belt Conference tournament semifinal against USC Aiken in a 84-48 victory over the Pacers at the English E. Jones Center on the UNC Pembroke campus.
The Cougars, who entered the tournament as the No. 1 seed in the West Division and ranked No. 5 nationally in the latest USA Today NCAA Division II poll, will take on the winner of West No. 2 seed North Georgia and West No. 4 seed Georgia College in the championship game Sunday, March 8.
Tip off in the championship game is set for 2 p.m as the Cougars try to become the first team to win back-to-back conference tournament championships since Lander accomplished the feat in 2008 and 2009.
Deshazer finished 5-of-8 from the floor, including 4-of-7 from beyond the arc, while knocking down 3-of-4 attempts at the charity stripe in the victory for the Cougars, who improved to 29-1 overall after picking up their 15th consecutive win. Deshazer also dished out a team-high four assists.
Junior Michelle Mitchell, a first team All-PBC selection, added 12 points and seven rebounds. Senior Carrie Washington, a second team All-PBC selection the conference's Defensive Player of the Year, registered her 14th double-double of the season with 11 points and a game-high 10 rebounds.
Freshman Erin Morrow finished with 11 points, giving the Cougars four players in double figures.
Senior Mackenzie Reese, a second team All-PBC selection, led USC Aiken (18-12) with 12 points and nine rebounds. Emry Tsitouris, the PBC Freshman of the Year, contributed nine points and seven boards
The Cougars jumped out to an 8-0 run in the first 4:30 in the game, with a basket by Mitchell capping the Columbus State run.
The Cougars extended their lead to 17-0 following a 3-pointer by Deshazer and a fastbreak layup by Mitchell within the span of one minute before USC Aiken finally got on the scoreboard with a three-point play by Reese at the 12:09 mark in the opening half.
A pair of free throws by Deshazer with 21 seconds left in the opening half gave the Cougars a 44-16 lead heading into the break at halftime, marking their largest lead in the first half.
Deshazer led Columbus State with 14 points on 4-of-6 shooting from the floor in the opening half, including a 3-of-5 performance from beyond the arc.