AMERICUS - Nadirah Gardner's last-second shot rolled out as Georgia Southwestern couldn't complete a comeback, falling 56-54 to No. 15 Clayton State on Wednesday.
The Lady Hurricanes trailed 24-11 at the half before regrouping and taking the Lady Lakers down to the wire.
"The first half of the game was one of the ugliest for both teams," said coach Kelly Britsky. "We're crushed that last shot didn't put us in overtime. That was probably the best 20 minutes I've coached with these girls this year."
GSW (9-11, 4-6 PBC) shot 50 percent in the second half after making 5 of 31 shots (16 percent) the first 20 minutes. The Lady Hurricanes cut it to 36-33 on a Whitley Wiltz 3-pointer with 10:49 remaining as the teams swapped baskets for most of the rest of the game.
GSW cut it to one with 1:37 left and then with 33.5 seconds on a Brittany Reynolds drive and basket. Clayton State got a couple of breaks when the ball went out of bounds of a Lady Hurricane, and it retained possession on a jump ball.
That forced a foul, and Teshymia Tillman made 1 of 2 free throws with 8.7 seconds left for a 56-54 lead.
Gardner drove the left baseline before getting in the paint and watched the ball go roll around and out in the final seconds.
"Everything went the way we wanted it to go; we had the best possible scenario the last 14 seconds except the ball didn't go in the hoop," said Britsky. "We did a better job of handling their pressure, and we calmed down. Once the shots started falling and we got some good stops, the confidence in themselves came up. They have to realize they can play and beat some teams. That's the biggest thing, believing in ourselves.
"That last 20 minutes, all those kids played on the same page, and they kept at it. Even though it's a loss, I hope we can take into Saturday and continue to play with the best in the conference."
GSW scored four points over the first 14 minutes of the game before Kanita Holloway's 3-pointer brought the Lady Hurricanes to within 15-7.
Brittany Reynolds led all scorers with 15 points and 10 rebounds, and Wiltz scored 12 and had seven rebounds.
"Brittany had an average first half," said Britsky. "She desperately wants to win big games her senior year. She picked it up and tried not to do it all by herself. Whitley for the first time didn't have to guard the best player on the other team. The last couple of games, the teams we've played have had one really good post player. That's what we kind of hoped for and expected from her."
Britsky said it's also nice to see the progress of Gardner, a junior, and sophomore Terra Branch.
"Whoopi (Gardner) is starting to turn the corner and will be one of the better players in the conference," she said. "Her mental game is starting to catch up with her mental abilities. Terra's growing up leaps and bounds every game we play. To see those two start to grow and understand where we want to go, they're starting to get it."
Tanisha Woodard led Clayton State (17-3, 8-2) with 12 points, seven rebounds and four blocks.
GSW is back on the road Saturday for a 2:30 p.m. tip against Montevallo. The Lady Hurricanes won the first meeting this season, 60-52.