Men’s Basketball – Sat, Feb. 27, 2021
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Stillman College’s quest for its first Southern States Athletic Conference Tournament championship bounced off the iron as the buzzer expired Saturday night in the Multiplex at Cramton Bowl. Ladarius Carter‘s 3-point attempt to tie the game did not go in, as No. 7 Faulkner escaped with a 67-64 win in its hometown.
Carter played all 40 minutes, finishing with three 3-pointers, 13 points and three assists. He made a tournament-high 16 3-pointers in three days, while scoring 49 points (16.33 per game). That is why when the game was on the line, Stillman head coach John Teasley looked to LD, who’d hit the game winner the night before against No. 16 Loyola.
“I’ve never seen a player play a tournament like he did. I’ve been in a lot of tournaments, and I’ve never seen a performance like that. Three days straight, he was outstanding. You could tell he was locked in. He was good. He was in it every possession, and that’s why we gave it to him last possession. With the tournament he’d had, you had to go with him,” Teasley said.
Stillman overcame a 17-point first-half deficit to get back in the game. Carter scored five points in the final minute, missing a first-half buzzer beater to make it a 12-point game at the half, 39-27 Faulkner.
The Tigers chipped away at the Eagles’ lead in the second half. A driving layup by Carter with 12 minutes left cut it to three points, 48-45. He late dumped a pass down to the right block for Rogers Davis to make it a one-point game, 48-47, but neither Tiger made the free throw after drawing a foul. Faulkner pushed its lead back to seven points in the next minute, but Stillman remained in the fight.
A Carter 3-pointer with 20 seconds to play put it back to a one-point game, 65-64, before Jordan Hamlette knocked down a pair of Faulkner free throws with 18 seconds left.
Stillman held an NAIA Top 20 team to its lowest offensive production on consecutive nights to close the three-day SSAC Tournament, presented by Newk’s Eatery. Faulkner’s 67 points and 25 made field goals were both season lows.
Wins over Brewton-Parker, 85-52, and No. 16 Loyola, 63-62, clinched Stillman’s spot in the SSAC final and punched its ticket to the NAIA National Tournament.
“It was a good tournament overall. The Southern States and Commissioner Mike Hall do a good job hosting. Even with COVID and all of the regulations, it felt like a tournament,” Teasley said. “Anytime you can play is a good thing. For us to keep playing each day, it made it us better and got us better for the big one. We wanted this one, but I’m proud of our effort, the energy and passion the guys played with. It was a beautiful thing to watch over the past three days.”
Devin Merriweather led Stillman with 15 points and five assists. He led the tournament with 18 total assists. Davis finished with 12 points, 13 rebounds and three blocked shots to lead the tournament with five blocks.
Hamlette led Faulkner with 21 points, Austin Rogers scored 17, and C.J. Williamson posted 11 points and 12 rebounds.
Stillman (16-3) awaits the announcement of its NAIA Opening Round destination. The NAIA will announce the tournament bracket and seeding on Thursday, March 4 at 7 p.m.