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Colonels Drop 77-71 Decision to BSC in SAA Semifinals

Colonels Drop 77-71 Decision to BSC in SAA Semifinals

MEMPHIS (CentreColonels.com) – The Centre men's basketball team fell by a score of 77-71 at the hands of defending Southern Athletic Association (SAA) champion Birmingham Southern in the conference tournament semifinals on Saturday night at Mallory Gymnasium on the campus of Rhodes.

The Colonels close the 2016-17 campaign with a 14-11 record, while the Panthers (14-13) return to the league title game for the second straight year to face top-seeded Rhodes on Sunday afternoon.

A slow start saw Birmingham Southern lead by as many as 11 points in the first half at 25-14 with just under eight minutes showing on the clock in the opening frame.

Centre battled back with an 11-3 run keyed by five points by sophomore guard Tucker Sine (Bowling Green, Ky.) to bring the Colonels within three points at 28-25 with 4:38 remaining in the half.

After holding a six-point edge at the break, the Panthers built their advantage to nine at 47-38 five minutes into the second stanza.

Centre answered with a 14-4 surge capped by a 3-pointer by senior guard Sam Gruber (LaGrange, Ky.) to give Centre its first lead of the night at 52-51 with 10:44 to play in the contest.

A back-and-forth second half of action, the Colonels found themselves knotted at 68-68 after a pair of free throws by freshman forward Jacob Bates (LaGrange, Ky.) with 2:37 remaining.

Birmingham's Matty Rudak connected on two shots from the charity stripe on the other end for the Panthers, before Centre freshman guard Perry Ayers (Bowling Green, Ky.) made the back end of two free throws to minimize the deficit to 70-69 with just under two minutes to play.

An Evan Lewis 3-pointer pushed the Birmingham Southern lead to 73-69 followed by two more Panther free throws to extend the advantage to 75-69 with 48 ticks showing on the clock.

After sophomore guard Jarod Griffin (Lexington, Ky.) drained two foul shots to cut the margin to 75-71 in the closing seconds of play, Rhodes' James McLean made two free throws to put the game out of reach for the Colonels.

Bates and Sine each paced Centre with 15 points apiece, good for a game-high as well. Bates was 4-of-10 from the field and 7-of-10 from the free throw line. He tied a team-high with seven rebounds and led all players with three blocked shots. Sine made 5-of-13 field goals including 3-of-9 from behind the arc. Junior forward Zach Schmucker (Cincinnati, Ohio) matched a team-high with seven boards off the bench for the Colonels.

McLean and Lewis led Birmingham Southern with 14 points each while Rudak and Calvin Bak each added 12 markers. Rudak finished with a game-high nine rebounds, as well.

Centre shot 39.0 percent (23-of-59) from the field, 27.3 percent (6-of-22) from downtown and 70.4 percent (19-of-27) from the charity stripe.

The Panthers outrebounded the Colonels 40-36 and outscored Centre 34-30 in the paint. The Colonels dished out 15 assists and committed just eight turnovers in the game.