Bevill State Community College Wins ACCC State Title; Advances to National Championship
Four victories in four days last week added up to one shining moment for the Bevill State Community College basketball team and a state championship.
Entering the tournament as the number four seed in the North Division, the Bears put together their best basketball of the season to claim the title.
To win the title, Bevill State knocked off Chattahoochee Valley 61-50 in the final. To reach the final, the Bears squeaked out a 70-68 win over Wallace State-Hanceville, a 79-61 victory over Faulkner State and an easy 90-68 rout of Enterprise Ozark Community College.
The title marks the fifth time Bevill State has brought the championship home to Fayette in the last nine years, and this one had a little extra special meaning because it is the first at the NJCAA Division I level.
The Bears previously won championships in 1998, 1999, 2003 and 2004 as a Division II team.
The next stop for BSCC will be Hutchinson, Kan., for the school?s first trip to the Division I NJCAA national championships March 20-24. The Bears?s first game will be March 20 against a team to be determined.
?This was a team championship,? head coach Paul Johnson said. ?We came together this week like we haven?t all season. I have told the guys all season that we were capable of playing like this and it all came together this week.?
Sophomore forward Quinton Smith was named the Most Valuable Player of the tournament for his standout defensive play.
?Quinton set the tone for the entire team,? Johnson said. ?He consistently shut down the opposition?s top playmaker and disrupted their offensive flow. But it is an award the entire team deserved for the way they played.?
All BSCC games at nationals will be aired live on WLDX and streamed on the internet at www.wldx.com. The first game will be Tuesday at 2 p.m. against the Missouri state champion.
Bevill St. 61, Chat Valley 50
Bevill State dominated the first half of the championship game against Chattahoochee Valley, the second seed from the South Division, holding a solid 29-16 lead at halftime.
Things then went sour, and the Bears saw the lead dissipate in the first ten minutes of the second half when they allowed the Pirates to go on a 24-9 run.
The Bears clamped down in the second part of the quarter, holding the Pirates to 11 points over the last 10 minutes of the game. The Bears were able to haul off 24 points in the final minutes to seal the victory and bring the title to Fayette.
?Our guys came out with a determination that we were going to make defensive stops. We gave up only 16 points in the first half to a team that was averaging close to 80 points a game,? Johnson said. ?We knew they were not going to quit. We came out the second half a little rattled. We had to call some timeouts and get the guys calmed down, and once we figured out what they were trying to do defensively we started scoring. We put them in foul trouble at the end, and when we got in control, we were able to put it away at the free throw line.?
The game was won on the defensive side of the ball as Bevill State held the Pirates, averaging over 50 percent shooting and around 80 points a game, to only 37 percent shooting and 50 points.
The stingy Bears? defense was led by tournament Most Valuable Player Quinton Smith. Smith shut down the Pirates? main scoring threat, Dwight Tolbert, who on the season was averaging 14 points a game and 64 percent shooting. Smith held Tolbert to just seven points from the field on nine shot attempts.
All-Region selection DeAndre Coleman led the Bears on offense with 19 points and nine rebounds.
All-Region and All-Tournament selections Antonio Benjamin and Tom Jervis both had excellent performances in the final. Benjamin had 16 points, and Jervis added 12 points with nine rebounds.
Bevill St. 70, Wallace St. 68
A last second putback dunk by Terry Thompson sealed an amazing comeback for Bevill State and a thrilling 70-68 victory over the Lions.
The win marked the third time this season the Bears beat nationally ranked Wallace State-Hanceville, who was the second seed from the North Division.
?We knew it was going to be a tough game because we had beat them twice, and you know the old saying it is hard to beat any team three times. Wallace is a very well coached team,? Johnson said. ?They have tremendous shooters we knew we had to guard against the perimeter shot. We only allowed them eight three pointers in the game, and they are used to getting around 15 per game. Our guys stuck to the game plan, and we got the win.?
With 7.2 seconds left on the clock, Antonio Benjamin drove the lane, putting up a potential game winning layup. The ball hit the front iron, and Terry Thompson went up over all defenders and slammed home the game winner, sending the Bears into the finals of the tournament.
As he had done in the prior two meetings, Smith put the clamp down on Wallace State leading scorer Jerrell Boswell, holding him to nine points on eight attempts, well under his season average of 16 points per game.
Smith also had his best game of the tournament offensively for the Bears, putting up 14 points.
All-Tournament selection Jamar Livings showed off his clutch 3-point shooting as he hit a 3-pointer with 16 seconds remaining to put the Bears up 68-66 en route to the victory. Livings had 11 points in the game.
Coleman added 10 points and nine rebounds, while Jervis and Benjamin both had nine points.
Bevill St. 79, Faulkner St. 61
Bevill State jumped up early on Faulkner State Community College, the number one seed in the South Division, rolling to a 79-61 win in the quarterfinals.
The tenacious defense, led by Smith, held the Sun Chiefs to 27 percent shooting for the game.
The Bears won the game by pounding the ball to the low post, only attempting 13 three point shots, well below their season average, a plan Johnson had all along.
?We thought that if we came out against Faulkner and executed our offense then we would be able to score inside, and we did,? Johnson said. ?They were a little smaller than we were, and we were able to bring their other big guy out on the perimeter most of the game. ?We got to the free throw line, and that helped in the final outcome. Our defense was really good in the second half.?
The Bears were led again by Jervis, who put up 14 points to go along with 12 rebounds. Jervis put up double-doubles in both opening games, and raised his season total to seven.
Livings gave Bevill State a boost from the 3-point line, putting up 14 points with a pair of treys.
Bevill St. 90, EOCC 68
Enterprise-Ozark Community College proved no match in the first round of the tournament for Bevill State as the Bears routed the Boll Weevils 90-68.
In a frantically paced game where the Bears dominated all aspects on the court, the Boll Weevils were forced to play the BSCC style of basketball.
?It was just a game in which we had to make sure we had everything crossed and dotted,? Johnson said. ?It turned out to be sort of a warm up game for our guys, and set the pace on how we knew we had to play in each game of the tournament.?
Johnson?s team performed well overall. A game in which all players saw minutes, the team was led by two veteran players, Jervis and Benjamin.
Jervis put up his sixth double-double of the season, and squashed the Weevils with 15 points and 11 rebounds.
The Bears won the battle on the glass with 47 rebounds to Enterprise-Ozark?s 36.
Benjamin helped the team all around and displayed his sophomore leadership, putting up 16 points to lead all scorers and adding three assists and six rebounds.
Johnson has nothing but praise for his team after such a successful season. After seeing starting power forward Oliver Mansour go down to a season-ending shoulder injury in the first conference game of the season, the team played through the tough part of the schedule building back the chemistry that had been disrupted, and ultimately getting things going when it counted.
?Our guys are super. They have worked so hard in the classroom, and have been great guys on and off the floor,? Johnson said. ?They hardly ever complained, stuck to our game plan and have done everything thing we have asked of them. I just can?t say enough about our team this year. I will tell you what I told them: ?Guys, great job?.?