MONTGOMERY, Ala. (Dalton State Athletics) – #4 Dalton State is bringing hardware back to Dalton in the form of the Southern States Athletic Conference Championship trophy after the Roadrunners defeated #21 Loyola (La.), 79-70 in the finals of the SSAC Basketball Championships presented by Newk’s Eatery at Cramton Bowl Multiplex in Montgomery, Ala. on Saturday night. The tournament championship is the second in school-history for the Roadrunners who won the tournament in 2017.
HOW IT HAPPENED
THE FIRST HALF
Loyola was hot out of the box jumping out to a 16-8 lead that forced a Dalton State timeout with 14:01 left in the half.
DS stuck to their game and methodically chipped away at the lead getting it to four (22-18) after a Randy Bell lay in with 8:30 remaining.
Kevon Tucker went hard to the hole with 3:34 on the clock, made the bucket and drew a foul. The and-1 tied the game at 30-30.
The Birds grabbed the lead for the first time two minutes later on another basket from Tucker (34-32).
With the Roadrunners up 37-35, Tucker viciously blocked a Zach Wrightsil layup attempt, pinning the ball to the backboard but was called for a body foul.
Wrightsil hit both shots from the free throw line to tie the game at 37-37 at the half.
THE SECOND HALF
The Wolf Pack opened the second period with a 7-0 run to take a 44-37 lead.
Igor Stokic hit a field goal just shy of the 15-minute mark to cut the deficit to three (46-43), the Loyola answered back with five of their own to extend the lead to eight points (51-43).
LU continued to hold the lead until just past the halfway mark of the half when Kevon Tucker and Randy Bell combined for a 9-3 spurt to make it a two-point game (58-56).
The game remained tight until the 4:40 mark when C.J. Perry hit a deep three to give the Roadrunners a 64-63 lead.
They would not trail again as they outscored the Wolf Pack 15-7 down the stretch to win the Southern States Athletic Conference Championship.
THE REST OF THE STORY
#4 Dalton State (Ga.) improves to 30-3 overall with the win, while #21 Loyola (La.) falls to 23-10 overall with the loss. Kevon Tucker led a trio of Roadrunners in double-figures with 20 points and six rebounds.
Randy Bell had 19 points, two rebounds and two assists, while Dauson Womack recorded another double-double with 11 points and 10 boards.
Tim Cameron and Myles Burns led the Wolf Pack with 15 points each. Cameron almost had a triple-double, adding 10 rebounds and eight assists. Zach Wrightsil had 14 points and Terry Smith Jr. pulled down 10 boards for Loyola.
BY THE NUMBERS
DS crashed the boards against a tough rebounding opponent (39-35) and won the battle in the paint (34-32). The Birds turned 16 Wolf Pack turnovers into 19 points on the offensive end and outscored them from the bench 27-8.
The Wolf Pack were more efficient from the field in the first half going 14-for-28 (50%), while the Roadrunners were 13-for-35 (37.1%) including 4-for-16 (25%) from behind the arc. The narrative changed in the second half where the Birds shot at a 53.8% clip versus 32.3% for Loyola.
With a berth in the NAIA Tournament now locked up, the Roadrunners will wait to see their fate in the NAIA Tournament Selection Show on Wednesday, March 11. Stayed tuned to dsroadrunners.com, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for links to watch the show.