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Women's basketball team advances to NCAA tournament after Peach Belt title

Buffie Burson cuts nets at 2019 PBC
UNG women's basketball coach Buffie Burson holds up the net after her team won the 2019 Peach Belt Conference tournament.

It didn't take the University of North Georgia (UNG) women's basketball team long to make it back to March Madness.

UNG won its second-straight Peach Belt Conference (PBC) tournament championship March 10 and will play in the NCAA Division II tournament for the third time in program history.

It is the first time the program has earned consecutive NCAA tournament bids.

"It means we've built some consistency," said head coach Buffie Burson, who is in her 25th year leading the program. "I'm really proud of them. It's a great feeling, but it's not an overnight thing."

The Nighthawks (27-4) are ranked 22nd nationally and are the No. 2 seed in the Southeast Regional that will be hosted by Anderson University in South Carolina. UNG will face No. 7 seed Emmanuel College (24-6) in first-round action at 2:30 p.m. March 15; the winner advances to play No. 3 Wingate or No. 6 Clayton State on March 16. Fans can watch the first-round game online. UNG defeated Emmanuel 74-42 in the teams' Nov. 9 season opener.

Other first-round matchups in the Southeast Regional include No. 1 seed Anderson against No. 8 Barton and No. 4 Carson-Newman versus No. 5 Lander.

The Southeast Regional title game is set for March 18 in Anderson, South Carolina. Winners of the regional title games advance to the NCAA Division II Elite Eight quarterfinals March 26 in Columbus, Ohio, where the national championship will be held March 29 and televised by CBS Sports.

UNG women 2019 PBC champs

UNG has now won back-to-back Peach Belt Conference tournaments and is in the NCAA tournament for the second year in a row.

UNG enters the NCAA tournament on a 13-game winning streak after PBC tournament victories against Georgia College (82-51), Clayton State (70-60) and Columbus State (90-72). Including the regular season, the Nighthawks compiled a 22-3 record against PBC opponents.

Senior guard Tamera Thorpe scored 21 points in the PBC title game, and earned tournament MVP honors. Sophomore guard Abbie Franklin added 14 points and 11 rebounds in the PBC championship game. Both guards were named to the all-tournament team.

"It shows how hard we've worked this whole season," said Franklin, who is from Homer, Georgia, and is a Jefferson High alumna.

Burson pointed to a Jan. 5 loss at UNC Pembroke and Franklin to a Jan. 30 loss at Lander as places where the team bounced back from adversity to help make this a strong season. Franklin said the team is excited but not satisfied after the PBC tournament title.

"We're not settling," Franklin said. "We want to go as far as we can."

In its previous two NCAA regional trips, UNG has won at least one game. A year ago, the Nighthawks beat Barton and Wingate before a loss to Carson-Newman in the Sweet 16. Burson thinks that experience in pressure situations could pay off.

"We're hoping that's going to help us if we get in those situations again," Burson said.

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