Carl Lut Williams
BCSP Editor, Special to Onnidan.com
ATLANTA – In a showdown of nationally-ranked teams in an SIAC finale, 9th-ranked Morehouse built a big 17-point second half lead and withstood a late rally by 20th-ranked Clark Atlanta, to come away with a 72-67 victory over their Atlanta University Center (AUC) neighbor and rival.
Morehouse senior, SIAC scoring leader and near shoo-in for SIAC player of the year, 6-1 guard Tyrius Walker, who led the Maroon Tigers (24-1, 18-1 SIAC) with 27 points, sealed the win with two free throws in the final seconds after the Panthers cut the lead to two points in the final two minutes.
The teams met earlier on Feb. 8 at a packed 1,700-seat Epps Gymnasium on the CAU campus with Morehouse coming away with a thrilling 97-96 triple overtime win. This one, before a capacity crowd at Morehouse’s 6,000-seat Forbes Arena, had all the makings of another thriller.
On senior night for the Maroon Tigers, Morehouse emerged from a nip-and-tuck first half with a 40-34 lead at the break and stretched it to 61-44 on Keith Heard’s inside bucket with 10:08. Heard’s bucket capped a 21-10 run over the first 10 minutes of the second half.
After a CAU timeout, the Panthers (22-4, 16-3) regrouped and put together a furious rally, getting 7 points from Shelvick Henry Jr., whose 3-pointer capped a 13-7 run that pulled them within 65-63 with 2:26 left. But from there, the Panthers squandered several golden opportunities to pull closer.
CAU’s Damien Davis went to the line with 1:07 left after a flagrant 1 foul and missed two free throws. He was fouled again on the ensuing rebound with 1:05 left and missed the front end of a 1-and-1. He committed his fifth foul on the ensuing rebound. Morehouse got two free throws from Jordan Wallace before Walker sealed it with his charity tosses.
Jalen Mitchell led CAU with 16 points while Davis finished with 14. Henry had 10 points off the bench. James Walker was the only other Morehouse player to score in double-figures getting 12 points in a reserve role.
NOTE: Morehouse is ranked first in the NCAA Div. II South Region and has submitted a bid to host the regional playoffs. Morehouse and Clark Atlanta will enter next week’s SIAC Tournament in Birmingham as the first and second seeds from the East Division. Morehouse’s only loss this season was an 85-72 decision at Claflin on Jan. 31.