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Back to the future: Former Belmont Abbey standout and coach meets his alma mater for the first time in NCAA Division II regional

By Richard Walker

It’s been “back to the future” week for Augusta, Ga., University head basketball coach Dip Metress.

Dip Metress (10) during his Belmont Abbey playing days.

Though in his 18th year as Jaguars head coach, Metress will face the school where he shined as a player and a coach in the quarterfinals of the 2022 NCAA Division II Southeast Regional on Saturday.

A 1988 Belmont Abbey graduate, Metress helped the Crusaders make the NAIA national tournament in 1988 as a player and guided the school to 134 victories and its first two Conference Carolinas championships (2002 and 2003) as head coach from 1996 to 2004.

But, on Saturday, Metress will meet his collegiate alma mater for the first time.

The No. 10-ranked Jaguars (28-3) are one of five teams ranked in the NCAA Division II poll; Lincoln Memorial (No. 7), UNC Pembroke (No. 8), Queens (No. 9) and Flagler (No. 25) also are ranked.

Belmont Abbey (22-9) enters on a seven-game winning streak that started after a 91-75 loss at UNC Pembroke on Feb. 12; The Crusaders avenged that loss – and a 71-62 home loss to UNC Pembroke – in Sunday’s 79-73 Conference Carolinas tournament title game win over the Braves in Spartanburg, S.C., that gave the Abbey an automatic NCAA Division II playoff berth.

Coach Dan Ficke’s Crusaders are led by a balanced offensive attack with six scorers averaging 9.3 or more points per game – Sean Halloran (14.5), Quest Aldridge (14.5), Chandler Baker (13.4), Mario Lacey, Jr. (12.0), L.J. McCoy (10.1) and Bosko Bojovic (9.3).

Augusta is led by 7-foot-1 Tyshaun Crawford, who averages 17.3 points and 8.3 rebounds per game and was named Peach Belt Conference Player of the Year. The Jaguars also have former Lake Norman Charter standout Troy Cracknell (13.2 points, 4.7 rebounds), who was the 2017 Big South 2A/3A Conference Player of the Year.

Since leaving the Abbey for Augusta where he was hired by another former Belmont Abbey standout – Augusta athletic director Clint Bryant – Metress has guided the Jaguars to a 396-146 record with three Elite Eight Appearances, eight conference regular season titles and four conference tournament titles.

Another local product, former Huss and Gaston Day standout Quan McCluney, averages 8.8 points and 3.1 rebounds for Queens, which has a 28-3 after the Royals won the South Atlantic Conference tournament title.

All regional participants have 20 or more wins – UNC Pembroke (26-3), Lincoln Memorial (25-4), Flagler (23-7), Georgia College (21-7) and Columbus State (20-10).

The regional winner advances to the 2022 Elite Eight tournament March 22, 24 and 26 in Evansville, Ind.

Here are the pairings for the 2022 NCAA Division II Southeast Regional at Augusta, Ga.:

(Saturday’s quarterfinals)
Noon – No. 3 Lincoln Memorial vs. No. 6 Georgia College
2:30 p.m. – No. 2 Queens vs. No. 7 Columbus State
5 p.m. – No. 1 Augusta vs. No. 8 Belmont Abbey
7:30 p.m. – No. 4 UNC-Pembroke vs. No. 5 Flagler

(Sunday’s semifinals)
5 p.m. – LM-GC winner vs. Queens-CS winner
7:30 p.m. – Augusta-BA winner vs. UNCP-Flagler winner

(Tuesday, March 15 championship)
7 p.m. (Winner advances to March 22-26 Elite 8 in Evansville, Ind.)