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@Centre_Bball Tops Berry 69-56 in SAA Quarterfinals

@Centre_Bball Tops Berry 69-56 in SAA Quarterfinals

photo by Allison Bowen

MEMPHIS (CentreColonels.com) – The second-seeded Centre men's basketball team earned a 69-56 victory over No. 7 seed Berry in the opening round of the 2017 Southern Athletic Association (SAA) Tournament on Friday night at Mallory Gymnasium on the campus of Rhodes College.

With the win, the Colonels (14-10) advance to Saturday's semifinal round to face the winner of the Birmingham Southern-Oglethorpe matchup at 7 p.m. CT. The Vikings close the season with a 10-16 ledger.

Early in the first half after a basket by freshman forward Jakob Spitzer (Atlanta, Ga.) knotted the game at 2-2, Berry scored nine straight points to gain an 11-2 edge with 11 minutes remaining in the opening frame.

Centre went nearly five minutes without scoring a point, before using a 17-5 run capped by three consecutive 3-point baskets, including two by sophomore guard Tucker Sine (Bowling Green, Ky.) and one by freshman guard Bailey Rakes (Mt. Washington, Ky.) to give the Colonels their first lead of the night at 19-16 with just under seven minutes showing on the clock.

Berry would regain the 23-21 advantage, when Centre's 19-4 surge into the second half pushed the Colonels' lead to its largest of the night at 40-27 at the 17:50 mark of the period.

Centre closed the first half on an 11-1 run as senior guard Matt Gump (Bellefontaine, Ohio) knocked down a 3-pointer at the buzzer off the feed by freshman guard Art Walker (Mt. Sterling, Ky.). Gump also ignited the spurt with a jumper.

The Vikings responded with a 15-5 run of their own, shrinking the deficit to just 45-42 with 13:46 to play in the game, before freshman forward Jacob Bates (LaGrange, Ky.) scored six of Centre's nine points during a 9-3 surge to build the Colonels' advantage back to 54-45 with just over six minutes remaining.

Berry's Ethan Clark made a layup to cut the margin to 54-47, when a basket by Sine fueled an 8-2 Centre run to put the Colonels up by 13 at 62-49.

Centre would not allow the Vikings to come within less than 11 points for the remainder of the contest.

Sine, who garnered First Team All-SAA honors earlier today, paced the Colonels with 14 points in the game, connecting on 4-of-7 field goals, 2-of-4 3-pointers and 4-of-4 free throws to go with five rebounds and three assists.

Gump, another All-SAA selection, finished with 10 markers and six boards, while Bates was a perfect 5-of-5 from the field to close out the game with 10 points and a team-high seven rebounds off the bench for the Colonels.

Rakes chipped in nine points off the bench and Ayers added eight points, three boards and tied a team-high with four assists. Walker also dished out four helpers in the victory.

Alton McCloud had 13 points and nine rebounds to lead Berry followed by Tanner Spalding with 10 markers.

The Colonels shot 49.1 percent (26-of-53) from the field, 27.3 percent (6-of-22) from long range and 64.7 percent (11-of-17) from the charity stripe.

Centre edged the Vikings in the rebounding column 40-38 to go with advantages of 19-10 in assists, 38-34 in points in the paint, 10-2 in fast break points and 28-22 in bench points.

Facing off with the winner of the Birmingham Southern-Oglethorpe game tomorrow, the Colonels will look to advance to their first SAA title game since 2014.