Photo: Shond McKinney (pictured at right) and the Gadsden State mens basketball team lost to Coastal Alabama South, 74-73, in the Alabama Community College Conference Tournament quarterfinals last Tuesday (Mar. 5) at Lawson State in Birmingham. (Courtesy of Gadsden State)
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
For the second straight year, the Gadsden State mens basketball team ended its season with a one-point overtime loss in the Alabama Community College Conference Tournament quarterfinals.
This time around, the Cardinals came up just short against Coastal Alabama South, 74-73, last Tuesday (Mar. 5) at Lawson State in Birmingham.
After frittering away a double-digit lead midway through the second half, Gadsden State rallied from a late nine-point deficit to send the contest into overtime. The Sun Chiefs were poised to put the game out of reach with a 60-51 advantage with just under two minutes remaining in regulation.
But Coastal Alabama faltered against a full-court press, and the Cardinals forced three straight turnovers that led to an 11-0 run.
Sophomore guard and Gadsden City High graduate Shond McKinney knocked down a pair of free throws to give the Cardinals a two-point lead with 10.6 seconds left.
“We didn’t have the personnel to press the whole game, so we had to pick and choose our spots,” said Gadsden State head coach Deddrick Tarver. “[Coastal Alabama] is a very experienced team, and experience sometimes takes over late in a ball game. Plus, they have four guys who average in doubles figures and have the top rebounder in the conference.”
Unfortunately, 10 seconds was enough time for Coastal South to keep its season alive.
With the Sun Chiefs using leading scorer and ACCC South Division Player of teh Year Tyrique Purvis as a de-coy, Zach Varnum banked in a layup in the closing seconds to force the tie. Gadsden State’s last-second three-point shot attempt bounced in and out of the basket, setting up the five-minute extra session.
Xavier Malcom single-handily kept the Cardinals in the game in overtime, scoring nine of his team’s 11 points and all three of its field goals.
Gadsden State found itself trailing by four points with 2:32 left, but two foul shots each from Malcolm and Norman Kelly drew GSCC within 74-73. Coastal Alabama attempted to run out the game clock with 20 seconds left, but the Sun Chiefs got careless with the ball and McKinney forced a jump ball with 14 seconds remaining.
The possession arrow pointed in Gadsden State’s favor, and Tarver called time-out to a diagram a play for the win.
The Cardinals took too long to set up, however, and in the face of a fierce pressure defense, Gadsden State was unable to get off a shot.
“We had a good effort but came up just a little bit short,” said Tarver. “[Coastal Alabama] is the No. 1 seed in the south region for a reason. I knew that if we didn’t win the game in regulation, it wouldn’t be in our favor in overtime. They had an experienced front line and we had an experienced front line, and I thought that was the difference in the game.”
The Cardinals shot well from the free throw line at 74 percent (17-for-23) but could not overcome subpar efforts from the field (38 percent) and from the three-point line (26 percent). Coastal Alabama had similar shooting woes (43 percent from the field, 20 percent from the three-point line) but had the edge in rebounding, 46 to 31, in-cluding a 16 to 9 edge on the offensive end.
“I think we did well in our scouting report on rebounding, but we just didn’t execute well down the stretch,” said Tarver.
Tarver admitted that his team lost a good deal of power under the boards when sophomore forward Lagarious Wigley fouled out with 6:25 left in regulation.
“We were kind of out-manned on the inside after that, and they started to beat us to the offensive glass. We were playing three freshmen on the front line and [Coastal Alabama] has a lot of experience up front.”
McKinney paced the Cardinals with 24 points while collecting six rebounds, three assists and three steals. Malcolm finished with 23 points, followed by Wigley with 10 and Jeremiah Harris with eight. Harris, Landon Johnson and Mondez Jones each grabbed five rebounds.
Purvis led the Sun Chiefs with 22 points along with eight rebounds. Tyler Presswood added 14 points, while Tyler Stallworth chipped in 13.
Helped by 31 percent shooting from the three-point line, Gadsden State led for much of the first half, albeit by single digits. Coastal Alabama last lead came at the 10:50 mark, and McKinney’s trey in the final seconds provided the Cardinals with a 34-36 advantage at intermission.
The early portion of the second half was all Gadsden State. Harris’ three-pointer at 12:05 made it 48-36 in favor of the Cardinals and the Sun Chiefs were back on their heels. But the GSCC sharpshooters missed their mark for several possessions in a row, allowing Coastal Alabama to chip away at the lead. Helped by nine points from Presswood, the Sun Chiefs put together as 13-0 run that gave the Bay Minette squad a 49-48 lead with 5:50 to go. Coastal Alabama kept its foot on the gas, as a pair of foul shots by Purvis put the Sun Chiefs ahead 60-51 with 1:57 left.
Those were the final points by Coastal for the remainder of regulation, howver.
Following a Gadsden State timeout, McKinney scored a quick basket and then completed a traditional three-point play to draw the Cardinals within 60-56. Gadsden State then went to a full-court pressure defense and forced three straight turnovers, all of which led to points. The final Chief miscue resulted in McKinney’s two foul shots for a 62-60 lead.
“Several of our sophomores have the opportunity to sign with a four-year school, which is what you want to see,” said Tarver. “We’ll take a few days off and re-group and get back in the gym. We’re bringing back the bulk of the team, so we’re excited. Hopefully we can bring in a few new pieces that will allow us to get to the next point. Maybe next year we’ll get a little bit more respect in the [conference] preseason rankings after winning 19 games and making the quarterfinals two years in a row.”