Savannah State men’s basketball made a game plan for Monday and executed it with nearly flawless effort.
The Tiger picked up their first post-season victory during their first year of competition within the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC), beating Spring Hill 79-66 on Monday at the Rock Hill Sports & Events Complex.
Savannah State, the No. 4 seed out of the SIAC East Division, will continue in the single-elimination tournament on Wednesday, March 4. They face Miles College, the No. 1 team out of the SIAC West Division, at 3:15 p.m.
“It’s always good to get a win at this time of the year, because if not, the season is over,” Savannah State head basketball coach Horace Broadnax said in a post-game press conference. “I think these guys played hard.”
The Tigers lost to Spring Hill, 72-81, on Dec. 19 in the team’s only meeting during the regular season. A big part of the loss for Savannah State in that game happened on the boards. Spring Hill grabbed 57 rebounds to the Tigers 45 that night.
Defense became the focus of Broadnax’s game plan coming into Monday’s battle. And the Tigers executed. Savannah State narrowed the rebound margin in this matchup with Spring Hill, grabbing 34 boards to their 35. They also forced 13 turnovers, while only committing nine of their own.
“They did what I asked them to do—played defense,” Broadnax said. “The last time we played Spring Hill, they really killed us on the glass. Guys played good defense, got some second chance shots. For the most part, we were able to take away some of their strong weapons.”
“That was our number one plan going into the game, offensive rebounds,” Marcus Scott said in the press conference. “We were watching film on that and we noticed that we all we had to do was limit them from getting offensive rebounds and that’s the main thing we focused on.”
Scott led the field in scoring, putting up 23 points. The freshman from Hinesville, Georgia has emerged as a team leader this season, and in the absence of leading scorer Adrian Bonds (due to injury) has become the Tigers go-to offensive weapon.
“The number one thing I wanted to do today was win,” Scott said. “It’s a big time of the year for us, so I made sure to work hard and came in with the mindset to win.”
Avery Joyner added 19 to the stat line and Trey DeLoach connected for 12 points on the day. Off the bench, Bryce Parks had a strong outing for the young Tiger squad as well, adding seven points.
Savannah State shot 45.3% from the floor and 70.6% from the free-throw line. Spring Hell managed a 41.5% clip and were led by Chase Shellman who put up 18 points on the day and grabbed 12 rebounds.
Spring Hill drew first blood going up 5-3 early on. Scott drained a jumper at the 17:27 mark to tie the game. From there, the Tigers opened an 8-2 run for a lead they would not relinquish again.
In the final five minutes, Savannah State pushed out to their largest lead of the first half, going up 36-24 on a layup from DeLoach. Undeterred, Spring Hill bounced back in the opening minutes of the second half though, cutting Savannah State’s lead to only three points with 17:22 ticking away.
Through most of the second half, the score remained close with the Tigers battling but staying out front. In the final three minutes, however, it was all Savannah State as the Tigers took their largest lead, 15 points, with less than a minute to play.
In similar fashion to today’s matchup, Savannah State lost to Miles College, 56-65, on February 12 in the team’s only regular season game this year. But Broadnax is confident his team has a shot the big dogs.
“You got to respect Miles,” Broadnax said. “They won the West. This is what they call a championship. Today is a championship. If you win, you move on. That’s how you got to look at it. I respect them, but I think if we do what we do on the defensive end, and these guys maintain their scoring level, hopefully we’ll have a good opportunity to win.”