By Chris Whitaker
The Americus Times-Recorder
AUGUSTA — What happens in the regular season means nothing in the NCAA Tournament.
Georgia Southwestern's dream season came to a crashing halt on Saturday.
The third-seeded Hurricanes fell behind by as many as 18 points before clawing back to one and eventually falling 62-59 to conference foe Montevallo — a team they beat twice by double digits during the regular season — in the NCAA Division II Southeast Regional.
GSW (20-9) missed four of its first 21 shots in falling behind 35-21 at the half and Peach Belt Conference Player of the Year Phillip Brown was held to six points and three rebounds.
"We didn't play very well today, and it's a disappointing way to finish up," said coach Mike Leeder. "We didn't play well down the stretch, going 4-5 in our last nine games, and we've got to find a way to do a better job next year of sustaining it over a longer period of time.
"We made the next jump from 7-20, and I hope we can make the next jump. It will be a more difficult jump from 20 — getting to the tournament and winning a few games and staying a few days."
The Hurricanes that thrived in specializing on defense and an efficient offense wasn't on the court. Saturday They shot 28.6 percent in the first half while the Falcons (19-10) shot 52 percent; Montevallo finished at 51.1 percent.
"We got off to a very slow start offensively, and I think we started to panic a little bit and gambled defensively," said Leeder.
GSW trailed 58-44 with 5:18 remaining when it made a 10-0 run, keyed by Talmadge Bell and Evan Mobley 3-pointers.
A Brown basket with 23 seconds left pulled GSW to within 60-59, but a dunk from Montevallo's DeMarcus Catchings five seconds later put the lead back to three. Mobley's last-second 3-pointer was blocked, ending the Hurricanes' season as they lost two in a row for the first time and three of their last four.
Trayce Macon led GSW with 18 points, and Mobley and Bell had 13 and 10, respectively.
Leeder's recipe for success in regards to free throw versus 3-point attempts were a disaster as the Hurricanes made 7 of 11 free throws compared with 10 of 23 behind the arc. They made seven in the second half to help close the gap late.
Montevallo held a 42-25 edge in rebounds and 13-3 advantage in second-chance points.
"They pounded us on the glass and got easy put backs," said Leeder. "We shot a lot of threes, and Phil didn't' touch the ball very much. It's very similar to the way we played in the conference tournament.
"They played good today. They're a good team and give them all the credit. They played hard. They played smart. They got the ball to the right spots, rebounded well and shot free throws well. (Danny Young) has had a lot of success coaching there and getting teams to the Sweet 16. They're a little more tournament tested than we were, and the experience benefited them as well."
Catchings led the Falcons with 19 points. Jonas Brown scored 11, and Ryan Westbrooks added 10.