When the ball was in play during Saturday’s USA South championship game, LaGrange College’s Mark Wagner was on the court.
The sophomore guard from Florida played all 40 minutes during the 94-84 victory over the Huntingdon Hawks that secured an invitation to the NCAA Division III national tournament.
Wagner scored 14 points, and he had three rebounds, two assists and a steal.
Wagner, who plays a team-high 31 minutes per game, is averaging 14 points a game, and he’s the team’s top 3-point shooter.
He’s also among the team leaders in steals and assists.
“He doesn’t come out very often,” LaGrange College assistant head coach David McGreal said. “He’s just a good basketball player. Even if he’s not shooting well, which is his forte, he does other things. He plays pretty hard defensively, he rebounds well for his size. He’s just a smart player.”
DOMINANT DUGGER: Senior Patrick Dugger has enjoyed an exceptional all-around season for the Panthers.
Dugger, a senior from Whitewater High School in Fayetteville, is the Panthers’ leading scorer with 16.8 points per game, and he has made nearly 56 percent of his shot attempts.
Dugger also leads the team with 10.2 rebounds per game, and he has a team-high 60 blocks.
Dugger’s high-point total came in one of the Panthers’ biggest wins of the season.
On Feb. 16, Dugger scored a career-high 31 points, and he made 14-of-19 attempts from the field in a home victory over Maryville.
At the time, Maryville hadn’t lost a conference game.
Dugger had three strong games in the USA South tournament.
He had 15 points in a first-round win over North Carolina-Wesleyan, he scored 24 points in a semifinal victory over Greensboro, and in the championship game against Huntingdon he had 17 points.
Dugger transferred to LaGrange College from Faulkner University before the 2012-2013 season.
In his first season with the Panthers, Dugger averaged 12.6 points and 9.6 rebounds per game.
FINAL GO-AROUND: There are four seniors on the LaGrange College roster who are hoping their collegiate careers won’t come to an end today.
The seniors are Dugger, Jerod Howard, Dustin Baxter and Denzel Robinson.
Among those players, Howard and Robinson have been on the team for four seasons.
Baxter and Dugger are both in their second season at LaGrange College.
Howard and Robinson played in conference-championship games during their freshman and sophomore seasons, but they came up short.
They got a third chance on Saturday against Huntingdon, and this time the outcome was in their favor.
BREAKTHROUGH SEASON: Heading into this season, it had been awhile since the Panthers posted a winning record.
The Panthers went 18-9 during the 2006-2007 season, and they lost in the Great South Athletic Conference tournament championship game.
Over the next five seasons, the Panthers finished with a losing record four times, and they finished with a .500 record once.
The Panthers turned a corner this season.
With their win over Huntingdon in Saturday’s USA South championship game, the Panthers have an 18-12 record, and they’ve won a conference title for the first time since 1975.
If the Panthers win today’s NCAA tournament opener against Centre, they would have 19 wins, which would be the program’s most victories since the 1992-1993 team went 21-11.
This is the 11th team in program history to win 18 or more games.