A-Sun: Belmont holds off Mercer, advances to championship game

Friday, March 4, 2011 at 8:58pm
Staff reports

Jordan Campbell scored 17 points and led four Belmont players in double figures as the Bruins held off Mercer 80-72 on Friday and advanced to Saturday’s championship game of the Atlantic Sun Conference men’s basketball tournament.

Mick Hedgepeth broke a 28-28 tie when he made a free throw with 4:58 to play in the first half. That started a 13-2 run, which covered the remainder of the first half and put Belmont (29-4) in front to stay.

Campbell made two 3-pointers during that stretch and finished 6-for-8 from the field, 3-for-5 on 3-pointers.

Mercer (15-18) closed to within as few as three points in the closing minutes but never caught the Bruins, who won the regular season conference title.

Kerron Johnson added 14 points, and Hedgepeth contributed 11 points and nine rebounds.

Brian Mills had game-highs of 21 points and 11 rebounds for Mercer.

Stetson 48, Belmont 46

Shaunda Strayhorn was fouled as she made a game-tying layup with 1.7 seconds to play and then made the ensuing free throw to put the Lady Bruins in position for their second victory in as many days at the Atlantic Sun Conference women’s tournament.

Then Stetson’s Victoria McGowan rattled in a 55-foot shot as time expired, and Belmont was eliminated in the semifinals.

“It’s not exactly the way you want to make a highlight reel," Belmont coach Brittany Ezell said. "... Games like this you almost wish that you lost by 20, because you are going to go back and look at every call. But there is nothing I can do to change it.

"It’s going to hurt every time I watch it."

The Lady Bruins (12-19) trailed by three at halftime and did not lead until Tristan Daniel’s 3-pointer put them up 39-38 with just over six minutes to play.

The score was tied 43-43 for more than two minutes before McGowan made a pair of free throws and put Stetson (18-13) in front 45-43 with 13 seconds remaining. That led to the final, heartbreaking sequence for Belmont.

Hayley Nelson had a double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds for Belmont. Daniel added eight points and Strayhorn finished with seven.

McGowan, whose desperation heave was her fourth 3-point basket of the contest, led all scorers with 22 points.

“I was just trying to get a shot off before the clock ran out and I didn’t think I would have enough time," McGowan said. "... I have never [done] it in a game. It felt good and I saw the rotation
was good so I thought it had a chance, but I wasn’t sure.”