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No. 24 women's basketball heads to regionals with PBC tournament win

Womens hoops PBC Champs
UNG women's basketball wins first-ever Peach Belt Conference Tournament championship.

Get ready for some March Madness — Nighthawks style.

The University of North Georgia (UNG) women's basketball team, ranked No. 24 in the nation, will compete March 9 in the NCAA Division II Southeast Regional after winning the program's first-ever Peach Belt Conference (PBC) Tournament Championship on March 4 at the university's new Convocation Center. UNG joins 63 other teams competing for a trip to South Dakota for the NCAA Division II Women's Basketball Championship on March 23.

The team claimed the No. 3 seed in the Southeast Regional and will travel to Carson-Newman University in Jefferson City, Tennessee, to compete for the regional title, as announced March 4 by the NCAA. UNG will play sixth-seeded Barton College at noon on March 9 in the opening round in a rematch of a game played Nov. 18 in the UNG Nighthawk Classic that UNG won 75-49. If UNG wins, the team plays at 5 p.m. on March 10.

In the March 4 tournament championship game, Deana Blankinship shot a perfect 12-for-12 from the field as UNG defeated Lander University 76-60. UNG never trailed in the contest and the game was only tied once at 14-14. UNG stretched its lead to 22 points in the third quarter, but Lander didn't go quietly, cutting the lead to nine with 1:07 left in the third. A layup by Julianne Sutton on the next UNG possession pushed the lead back to double digits, where it stayed for the remainder of the contest.

Julie McKie was named MVP of the tournament, while Sutton was named to the All-Tournament Team.

The Nighthawks are one of three PBC teams to make the Southeast Regional tournament, including Lander as the No. 4 seed and Columbus State University as the No. 7 seed. Wingate University is the No. 2 seed after falling to Carson-Newman in the South Atlantic Conference championship game Sunday afternoon, while Limestone College grabbed the sixth seed and Anderson University was named the eighth seed.

The regional's opening round games will be played March 9, the semifinals March 10 and the regional final March 12. All games will be played at Carson-Newman's Holt Fieldhouse.

Eight regional tournaments, consisting of eight teams each, begin play March 9 and play through March 12. The regional champions then head to the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, for the 2018 NCAA Division II Women's Elite Eight. Play tips off in the quarterfinals March 19 and concludes with the championship game March 23.

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