By Chris McCarthy/Editor
The Gadsden State mens basketball team came up short in the Alabama Community College Conference championship game on Saturday (Mar. 7), falling to Faulkner State, 93-74, in Bay Minette.
A strong second-half start and a solid performance at the free throw line helped Faulkner take control of the game over the final 20 minutes. With Gadsden State leading 43-41 at intermission, the host Sun Chiefs opened the second half with a 24-12 stretch that gave them a double-digit lead for good.
It was Faulkner State’s first conference championship since 1991. The Sun Chiefs will compete in the NJCAA Tournament later this month in Hutchinson, Kans. The Cardinals were also conference runner-up in 2011 and 2013.
Gadsden State (21-12) used full-court pressure in an attempt to create turnovers, but the Sun Chiefs consistently broke the Cardinal press while getting several points off offensive rebounds. Faulkner outscored Gadsden State 52-33 in the second half.
Faulkner starting forward Rafael Adams, who was the Sun Chiefs’ leading scorer up to that point, has to leave the game with his fourth foul 10:18 left, but Gadsden State could not take advantage.
“We scored a little bit more [after Adams left], but [Faulkner] also had a smaller and more agile guy come into the game at that point, so our press wasn’t as effective,” said GSCC head coach Todd Ginn. “I also think that Faulkner playing at their place was a huge advantage.”
After a pair of baskets by Christian Hutchinson pulled GSCC within 71-59 with 7:30 remaining, Faulkner went 15-for-16 from the foul line. The closest Gadsden State got over the final five minutes was 17 points.
Ginn noted that the Cardinals’ 100-93 double-overtime win over Shelton State the previous day affected his team down the stretch.
“Normally we press all over the court in that situation, and I think that the setup of the tournament hurt us. In the last 10 minutes of the game, I do think fatigue was somewhat a factor in that we were playing our third game in three days.”
Faulkner shot 83 percent (19-for-23) at the free throw line in the second half and 78 percent (25-for-33) overall.
By contrast, the Cardinal shot 48 percent (11-for-23) at the foul line in second half and 50 percent (16-for-32) for the game.
Faulkner also held the edge in rebounding (56 to 34), assists (21 to 10) and turnovers (nine to 15).
“We went to the [foul] line four straight times when it was a four-point game with 14 minutes to go, and we did not make a single free throw,” said Ginn. “If we make those shots, it would have helped us get into our press. We weren’t able to do that, and we couldn’t match up with size across the board. When we tried to double [team] them, they hit some 3-point baskets that created some space.”
Pat Edmonds had the hot hand for the Cardinals early on, scoring 12 of his 14 points during the contest’s first 13 minutes. The advantage changed hands 10 times, with Gadsden State’s largest lead being eight points at 11:42.
Hutchinson led the Cardinals with 15 points. Jacob Gibson, Tevin Wise and Daruis Bush each scored 10 points 10, while Marcelle Jackson chipped in nine.
Bush grabbed nine rebounds, followed by Gibson with seven. Jackson had four assists and Gibson had three steals.
Logan Adams paced the Sun Chiefs with 24 points, followed by Adams with 19 and Xavier Dorch and Phillip Rankin with 12 each.
Edmonds, Gibson and Jackson made the all-tournament team.
Against Shelton State, Hutchinson and Jackson each finished with a double-double. Hutchinson had 20 points and 13 rebounds, while Jackson had 17 points and 17 boards along with five blocks.
Wise contributed 17 points, seven rebounds and four steals, while Gibson collected 12 points, seven rebounds, three assists and three steals. Edmonds added 13 points, while Dylan Mackey chipped in eight.
Gadsden State opened the tournament on Mar. 5 with an 82-77 quarterfinal win over Chattahoochee Valley. Edmonds scored 17 points, followed by Wise with 14, Jackson with 13, Hutchinson with 10, Bush with nine, Gibson with eight and Paul Johnson with six. Johnson, Gibson, Jackson and Hutchinson each had five rebounds.
“We had a bunch of guys that played hard every single night and gave it all they had, and we beat a lot of teams that put more talent on the court than we had,” said Ginn. “We had great leadership and a lot of heart. It hurts right now, but as times passes, our guys will realize that we reached all of our goals except one.
“It’s not about coaching; it’s about your players, and we got more out of these kids out of what God gave them than a lot of other teams did. When you get to the state finals, you know you’re doing something right.”