MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Short-handed Faulkner used a 14-point run midway through the second half to take control, then held off a Spring Hill rally to capture a 62-57 victory here Thursday night in a crucial Southern States Athletic Conference matchup at Tine Davis Gymnasium.
The victory moves Faulkner (13-12 overall, 6-9 SSAC), which played without ill starting point guard Jake Mitchell, into a tie with Spring Hill for the all-important fifth place in the SSAC West Division standings. The top five teams in each division earn berths in the conference tournament in Rome, Ga., early next month.
The Eagles trailed 42-39 with 9:54 left in the game when seniors Chris Palmore and Adam Okechukwu led the charge that ended with Faulkner on top 53-42 with 3:28 on the clock. The two combined for nine points during the run, but a 3-pointer from Malik Major and a tomahawk dunk by Decorey Jones provided the explanation points.
The Badgers (12-11 overall, 6-9 SSAC) did make a final push behind Jake Thelen and Brett Williams, the only two Spring Hill players to score in the second half. Thelen made a couple of baskets and a free throw, and Williams converted a conventional three-point play to cut the margin to 3, only to see the Eagles' Duke Phillips nail a baseline jumper with 53 seconds left to provide some cushion.
Ayo Madamidola's two free throws sealed it for Faulkner in the closing seconds, keeping its post-season hopes alive with three conference games remaining.
"I'm so proud of this team and the resiliency it showed here tonight," said Faulkner head coach Jim Sanderson, who after two of his players filed out had only six available at game's end. "We had some guys who stepped up to the plate and they were swinging their bats. Almost every one of our guys made plays that impacted this game for us. It was the most important game of the year for us, because had we lost we'd have been two games out of fifth place with games quickly running out."
Palmore's 15 points and Okechukwu's 13 were tops for Faulkner. Palmore, who was honored prior to the game for joining the Eagles' "1,000-Point Club," added a game-high 11 rebounds. Faulkner dominated the glass, outboarding the Badgers 40-27.
Thelen led Spring Hill with 28 points and nine rebounds, and was the only Badger to score in the first 18 minutes of the second half. Williams did supply some support from there, finishing with nine points.
The Eagles made only 26 percent of their shots in the first half, and the Badgers took advantage with Scwab connecting on three of four attempts from behind the arc as Spring Hill broke away to grab a 31-25 advantage at the break.
Faulkner travels to Jackson, Miss., Saturday to battle Belhaven, which leads the SSAC West Division. The game tips off at 7 p.m.