Beavers win first SLIAC tourney game since ’05
By Eric Becker
GREENVILLE (March 1, 2018) – Blackburn’s crazy finish to the regular season carried over into postseason play Thursday night at Greenville University.
Playing in its first conference tournament game since 2006, the Beavers held off Eureka 86-80 in overtime to advance to Saturday’s championship game against the host Panthers.
Blackburn (15-11) has won three straight – all in overtime – and all in win-or-go-home scenarios.
Blackburn’s last win in tourney play was in 2005, a 65-52 win over Webster in the championship game. They went on to play in the NCAA tournament.
Those players and coaches are long gone from Blackburn. This group of Beavers will be remembered as the team that never quit.
The game was tightly contested throughout, with neither team leading by more than seven points at any point.
Blackburn jumped out to a 9-4 lead and had an 18-11 lead after a three-point hit from Bryson Kirby.
Then the conference’s leading scorer, Shea Feehan, took over. Averaging just under 31 points per game, he was held scoreless for the first eight and a half minutes of the game.
Feehan scored 15 over the last 11:30 of the half. The game went back and forth, with Eureka taking a 35-31 lead late in the half.
A three-pointer from Reed Rusten made it a 39-36 Blackburn lead at the half.
Neither team led by more than five in the second half of play. Blackburn opened a 47-43 lead but the Red Devils then made six straight to take the lead. A three-pointer from Dakota Bennington gave Eureka (18-8) a 54-50 lead with less than 12 minutes to play.
Blackburn answered, going on a 9-2 run to take a 59-56 lead with eight minutes to play.
Neither team gave an inch in the game. Blackburn led and had held Feehan scoreless in the second half until a game-tying trifecta made it 66-66 with under four minutes left.
Karson Hayes’ assist to Jordan Clay, and a three-pointer by Kirby with 2:49 left gave the Beavers a 71-66 lead.
Feehan quickly countered with a another three, and made one of two free throws with 53 seconds left to make it 71-70.
Blackburn would miss two free throws, while the Red Devils missed a chance to take the lead with a pair of misses at the rim.
With 10.8 seconds left, Malcolm Scott drilled two free throws to make it 73-70.
While it appeared the Red Devils would look to Feehan, instead they swung the ball to Ryan McElmurry, who launched a 25-footer from the right arc, hitting nothing but net with 3.1 seconds left, tying the game.
On the play, McElmurry injured his ankle and had to be carried off the court, ending his night.
The Beavers got the ball to halfcourt but a steal and a long three-point attempt from mid-court was just barely wide of the rim, sending the Beavers to their third straight overtime game and sixth within the conference season.
In the extra session, Eureka took a 75-74 lead before a Scott basket and two hoops from Duncan King gave Blackburn an 80-75 lead with 2:55 left in overtime.
Feehan countered, hitting a pair of free throws and a game-tying three-pointer with 53 seconds left from the top of the arc made it 80-80.
The Beavers countered with Hayes launching and hitting a cool, collective three-pointer of his own with 33.8 seconds left.
Eureka’s Feehan was denied on a shot block by Scott and with 20 seconds left, King made two free throws for an 85-80 lead.
They tacked on another free throw by Clay with 12.5 seconds left for good measure.
King had 20 points to lead Blackburn, with Scott adding 17 with seven rebounds and a huge block. Kirby finished with 14 points; Hayes had 12 points and five assists and Reed Rusten had 10 points.
Blackburn finished 33 of 75 from the field, 13 of 19 at the foul line with 16 turnovers.
Eureka got 27 points from Feehan, while Bennington added 14 points. Jordan Dehm had 12 points and 10 rebounds, but struggled with cramps in his leg midway through the second half which limited his time on the court. Hank Thomas also had 12 points for Eureka.
The Red Devils made 27 of 70 from the field, 17 of 23 from the foul line with 16 turnovers.
Between games, awards were given out by the SLIAC.
Head coach Steve Kollar was named co-coach of the year. Scott, a senior, was named to the all-conference second team; Hayes was named to the third-team all-conference; Nigel Ferrell was named to the all-defensive team and Reed Rusten was named to the all-sportsmanship team.
Greenville outlasted Westminster in the second semifinal Thursday, 125-112, go get into Saturday’s championship game.
Greenville 126, Blackburn 119
Despite a valiant comeback attempt, the Beavers came up short Saturday in the championship game against host Greenville.
The Panthers won their first ever SLIAC title by holding off Blackburn in a high-scoring affair.
Blackburn (15-12) was down 24 points in the first half, rallied to get within four points late in the game, only to come up a bit short.
Greenville (19-8) led 69-52 at halftime despite a 59-35 lead at one point in the first half.
Blackburn scored 67 points in the second half to 57 for Greenville, but the Panthers were able to persevere.
Hayes had 26 points and five assists to pace Blackburn, while King added 20 points and five assists. Ferrell had 21points and Jamaya Wyatt added 15 points and 10 rebounds. Scott finished with 14 points.
Blackburn made 45 of 94 from the field and 19 of 29 free throws with 21 turnovers.
Greenville was led by Johari Dix with 26 points and eight assists. Adam Warren added 23 points and 16 rebounds. The Panthers were 39 of 82 from the field and 31 of 41 from the foul line, with 22 turnovers.