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Hot-handed Vikings upset Colonels in SAA Tournament quarterfinal, 97-93

Hot-handed Vikings upset Colonels in SAA Tournament quarterfinal, 97-93

DANVILLE, Ky. – Centre men's basketball dropped a devastating 97-93 decision Friday afternoon to Berry College in the Southern Athletic Association (SAA) quarterfinals, hosted by the Colonels inside Alumni Gymnasium.

Despite a previously-unblemished home record and nine-game winning streak to close the regular season, the Colonels become the first top seed to fall to the No. 8 seed in the SAA Tournament. They also lost to Berry for the first time ever in six conference tournament meetings.

The first half was a dogfight for the top-seeded Colonels, as the Vikings held a lead for more than 11 minutes in a period that featured three ties and four lead changes.

Centre hit five of its first six shots to start the game, but the Vikings used an 11-0 run midway through the period to take their biggest lead, 22-15, with 10 minutes remaining.

After sophomore Perry Ayers (Bowling Green, Ky.) halted the run with a 3-pointer, Centre clawed back and ultimately went into the half up 44-42 following a late triple from junior Tucker Sine (Bowling Green, Ky.).

Centre forced an early Berry timeout in the second half, using a 7-0 run to grab its largest lead of the day, 51-44.

The lead didn't last long, though, as Berry went on an extended 15-6 run to take a 75-67 lead with under seven minutes remaining.

In what could only be described as a heavyweight bout, the two sides traded punch after punch down the stretch.

Berry answered every Centre flurry, however, and knocked down 17 of 24 free throws in the period to help secure the victory.

The Colonels, who entered as the best free throw shooting team in the SAA, hit just 14 of 23 from the stripe. After going 9-for-14 from deep in the first half, Centre was held to just 2-for-6 in the second, as well.

Berry, which ranks last in the league in field goal offense this season, shot a blistering 57 percent overall and reached 97 points for just the fourth time this season.

Ayers finished with a season-high 31 points, shooting 10 of 15 overall while hitting four 3-pointers. He added five rebounds and a team-high five assists, along with a block and steal.

Sine scored 16 points, as did sophomore Jacob Bates (LaGrange, Ky.), who led Centre with eight rebounds off the bench.

Centre finishes the season 17-8 overall, while Berry advances to Saturday's semifinal with a 9-17 record.