BIRMINGHAM, Ala.—Surviving an 18-point comeback late in the game, the Birmingham-Southern men's basketball team held on to defeat Berry College 83-78 Sunday afternoon in the regular season finale in Bill Battle Coliseum.
The Panthers have won four straight games and move to 16-9 overall and 10-4 in the Southern Athletic Association; the Vikings fall to 5-20 overall and 2-12 in the SAA. With today's win BSC earns the second seed in next weekend's SAA Championship, hosted by top-seeded Centre in Danville, Ky. The Panthers will face seventh-seeded Hendrix next Friday, Feb. 28, at 6 p.m.
Today's game started with little scoring from either team, with Berry leading 3-0 at the 17:43 mark. BSC then used a 17-0 run after that to pull up 17-3 by the 12:02 mark. The Vikings worked to cut it back to 23-20 at the 6:19 mark of the first half, but the Panthers out-scored Berry 15-4 to end the period with a 38-24 lead.
BSC held onto its lead in the second half and expanded it out to as high as 21, 71-50, with 7:34 left. The Vikings chipped away over the next five minutes, using a 22-4 run to cut it to 75-72 with 2:16 left to play. After a BSC time out, the teams traded three-pointers before Berry's Hunter Smoak was fouled and sent to the free throw line for a one-and-one. He missed the front end, and junior Larry Thomas grabbed the rebound and tipped the ball in, getting fouled in the process. He hit the free throw to put his team back up by six, 81-75, with 1:14 left in the game.
With 39 seconds on the clock, BSC senior Colin Henry was whistled for a personal and technical foul, sending Berry to the free throw line for four shots, where they hit three of them to cut it back to a three-point BSC lead, 81-78. Sophomore Ross Welch was fouled after that, and made one of his two shots, putting BSC up by four, and on Berry's next possession Thomas blocked their shot and grabbed the rebound, getting fouled in the process. Thomas was one-of-two at the line with 12 seconds remaining, extending the Panther lead to five, 83-78. Berry got one shot off before time expired, a three-pointer, but it was no good and the Panthers clinched the victory and the number two spot in the league standings.
Thomas led BSC with 15 points, while senior Griffin Schamp and sophomores Alex Avery and John Crain had 11 points apiece. Thomas also led with nine rebounds and five steals, and he and senior Jason Holland had three assists each.
Schamp, Henry, Holland, and Matt Player were honored during a pregame ceremony for Senior Day.
Smoak led the Vikings with 18 points, followed by Owen Jacobs with 15, Lee McCloud with 13, and Douglas Cotter with 11. Jacobs also led all players with 11 rebounds, and Mac Whalen led with six assists.
BSC pulled down a season-high 50 rebounds, and out-rebounded Berry by 17, the largest margin of the season.