Falcons escape with win in NCAA opener

The University of Montevallo men's basketball team kept its streak of first-round victories in the NCAA Division II tournament alive following a 62-59 win over Georgia Southwestern State University at Christenberry Fieldhouse in Augusta, Ga in its tournament opener March 12. (Contributed)

By WESLEY HALLMAN / Sports Editor

The University of Montevallo entered the 2011 NCAA Division II men’s basketball tournament unbeaten in first-round games in its first five trips to the Big Dance.

The Falcons held off a late run by Georgia Southwestern State University to keep the streak alive following a 62-59 win over their Peach Belt Conference foe in the Southeast Region quarterfinals March 12 at Christenberry Fieldhouse on the campus of Augusta State University in Augusta, Ga.

Montevallo, the No. 6 seed, advanced to take on No. 7 seed Anderson University in the semifinals March 13 at 4 p.m. Anderson University upset No. 2 seed Lincoln Memorial University in the quarterfinals.

The Falcons have also never lost a second-round game in their first five trips to the NCAA Division II tournament and are seeking their sixth trip to a regional final in school history, including their second consecutive appearance in the Southeast Region championship game.

“It doesn’t matter who we are matched up with next,” said Montevallo coach Danny Young. “We’re glad that we are able to play another day.”

Montevallo (19-10) avenged two regular season losses to Georgia Southwestern, the No. 3 seed in the Southeast Region, with the win in the first round of the NCAA Division II tournament. Montevallo, which lost at home by 10 points to the Hurricanes and by 13 points on the road at Georgia Southwestern during conference play, flipped the script in the tournament opener by jumping out to a commanding 16-point lead in the opening half and leading throughout the contest.

However, the Falcons had to hold on for their postseason life after Georgia Southwestern turned a double-digit lead into a one-possession game in the final minute. The Falcons ended the threat by the Hurricanes when Montevallo junior guard Antoine Davis blocked a 3-point attempt by Georgia Southwestern’s Evan Mobley in the corner with two seconds remaining to seal the victory.

Davis said timing was the most important factor in the final defensive play.

“I got in a nice tempo,” Davis said. “I looked at the clock and went with my gut.”

Young said the Falcons didn’t want to end their streak of first-round tournament victories.

“Today, we were more aggressive and played hard,” Young said. “We were focused on what we had to do and tried our best to accomplish it.”

Junior forward DeMarcus Catchings, who gave the Falcons a three-point cushion with his dunk with 18 seconds remaining, led Montevallo with 19 points. Catchings, who also grabbed 10 rebounds to finish with a double-double, hit 6-of-9 field goals and 7-of-9 free throws in the victory.

Sophomore guard Jonas Brown added 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting from the floor, including 3-of-4 from beyond the arc. Junior guard Ryan Westbrooks contributed 10 points on 4-of-8 field goals.

Junior forward Jervan Jackson chipped in eight points and 10 rebounds. Senior center Ronald (R.J.) Severtsgaard finished with seven points. Davis, who was selected to the All-Peach Belt Conference second team, was held to five points. Davis finished with six rebounds and dished out a team-high seven assists in the victory.

Junior guard Tyrell Coleman finished with two points and eight rebounds.

Senior forward Trayce Macon led Georgia Southwestern with 18 points on 7-of-19 shooting from the floor.

The Falcons shot 51.1 percent from the floor, including 4-of-8 from 3-point range, in the win and held the Hurricanes to 35 percent shooting. Montevallo hit 9 of its first 11 free throws, but missed 5-of-6 attempts from the charity stripe down the stretch to leave the door open for Georgia Southwestern. The Falcons also turned the ball over 15 times in the opening-round game of the tournament.

Montevallo took an early 2-0 lead 15 seconds into the game following a layup by Catchings off an assist by Jackson. After a basket by the Hurricanes, the Falcons took a 4-2 lead following a fastbreak layup by Davis with 15:22 remaining in the opening half. Davis drained a jumper less than a minute later to give Montevallo a 6-2 lead.

Severtsgaard drained 1-of-2 free throws with 14:08 remaining to push the Falcons’ lead to 7-2.

Georgia Southwestern responded with a 3-pointer by Talmadge Bell to cut the lead to 7-5 before back-to-back baskets by Severtsgaard and Jackson within a span of one minute gave Montevallo a 11-5 lead with 12:30 left in the first half.

Catchings downed two free throws with 10:10 left in the first half to give the Falcons a 16-8 advantage. Catchings pushed the Montevallo lead to double digits for the first time in the game with his two free throws with 7:03 remaining in the opening half, which gave the Falcons a 22-12 lead. Catchings drained two more free throws one minute later to give Montevallo a 24-12 advantage.

Brown’s 3-pointer with 4:59 remaining in the first half gave the Falcons a 27-12 lead. Georgia Southwestern responded with a basket to temporarily stop the damage and end a 6-0 run by the Falcons.

Westbrooks downed a 3-pointer on Montevallo’s next possession to push the lead back to 15 points. A tip-in by Davis following a miss by Westbrooks with 3:11 remaining in the opening half gave the Falcons their biggest advantage in the opening 20 minutes when the offensive rebound and basket gave Montevallo a 16-point advantage at 33-17.

Montevallo turned the ball over in the final minute of the opening half, but the Hurricanes’ Jarmon Hawkins missed a running layup as time expired to allow the Falcons to keep a 35-21 lead heading into the locker room at halftime.

Catchings, who led Montevallo with 10 points in the first half, was the only player in double figures in scoring at the break.

Brown drained a 3-pointer early in the second half to give the Falcons their largest lead of the game with a 41-23 advantage over the Hurricanes.

Macon matched Brown’s 3-pointer on the other end to cut the Montevallo lead back to 15 points, and Mobley drained a 3-pointer to give the Hurricanes back-to-back long range bombs. The trio of 3-pointers cut the Falcons’ lead to 41-29 with 15:25 remaining in the game.

Severtsgaard quickly ended Georgia Southwestern’s 6-0 run with a layup off an assist by Davis to give Montevallo a 14-point advantage. However, Macon drained another 3-pointer on the Hurricanes’ next possession to cut the lead to 43-32 with 14:26 remaining in the game.

Following a Montevallo miss, Matt Shaw of Georgia Southwestern scored a layup to cut the Falcons’ lead to single digits at 43-34 with 13:47 remaining in the game. Coleman responded with a jumper in the paint to push the lead back to double digits at 45-34 and Montevallo called a timeout to attempt to stymy the Hurricanes’ momentum.

After a couple of empty possessions by each team, Mobley converted a three-point play to cut the Falcons’ lead to 45-37 coming out of a media timeout with 11:33 remaining in the game.

Montevallo responded with a 3-pointer by Westbrooks to push its lead back to double digits at 48-37 with just more than 10 minutes remaining. The Falcons pushed their lead to 13 points following a goaltending call on the Hurricanes on a layup by Catchings.

Georgia Southwestern answered with a 3-pointer by Slotter to cut the Falcons’ lead to 50-40 with just under 10 minutes remaining. After an empty Montevallo possession, the Hurricanes failed to take advantage of two attempts at the charity stripe. The Falcons made Georgia Southwestern pay on the other end as Westbrooks converted a three-point play after getting fouled on a floater in the lane to push Montevallo’s lead to 53-40 with 7:53 remaining in the game.

The Hurricanes missed a 3-pointer on their next possession and the Falcons took advantage following an offensive rebound and basket by Jackson to temporarily take back control of the game and push their lead to 55-40.

Macon drained a 3-pointer on Georgia Southwestern’s next possession to cut the Falcons’ lead to 55-43 with just more than seven minutes remaining. Catchings followed with a layup to push the Montevallo lead back to 57-43.

Davis made 1-of-2 attempts from the charity stripe to push the lead back to 58-44 before the Falcons struggled down the stretch.

Bell drained a 3-pointer with 5:05 left in the game to cut the Falcons’ lead to 58-47. Mobley knocked down two free throws with 4:45 remaining and Bell stole the ball and converted a fastbreak layup to cut the Falcons’ lead to 58-51 with 4:31 remaining in the game.

Mobley drained a 3-pointer with 3:46 remaining to cut the margin to four points, 58-54, for the first time since the opening 10 minutes of the game following a 10-0 run by the Hurricanes.

A dunk by Jackson snapped the Georgia Southwestern run and gave Montevallo a 60-54 lead with 2:41 left in the game. After a miss by the Hurricanes, Catchings couldn’t convert two attempts at the free-throw line and left the door open in the final 1:33 of the contest.

Both teams struggled at the charity stripe late in the contest, with Georgia Southwestern converting only 1-of-2 free throws following a foul on Jackson to cut the Montevallo lead to 60-55 with 1:13 remaining in the game.

After a pair of empty possessions by each team, Macon drove down the lane for a layup to cut the Falcons’ lead to 60-57 with 34 seconds left in the game. Montevallo turned the ball over on its next possession and Brown drained a jumper to cut the Falcons’ lead to 60-59 with 23 seconds remaining in the game.

However, Montevallo beat the defensive pressure and Catchings’ fastbreak dunk with 18 seconds remaining gave Montevallo a three-point lead. Davis blocked a 3-point attempt by Mobley in the corner with two seconds remaining to seal the Montevallo victory.

The Falcons held on for the win despite a 15-4 run to end the game by Georgia Southwestern.