MONTGOMERY, Ala. - For 33 minutes Faulkner's regular season-ending battle with Auburn Montgomery was a slugfest, with eight lead changes and neither team able to grab control. At the 6:05 mark in the second half, however, Eagles' guard Chris Palmore took over, and the result was a happy ending for the senior playing in his last game at Tine Davis Gymnasium.
Faulkner held a razor-thin 46-45 lead when Palmore's long 3-pointer sparked a 15-3 run that staggered the Warhawks, and the Eagles went on to stop their cross-town rival 66-54 here Saturday afternoon in a Southern States Athletic Conference divisional shootout.
The victory lifts Faulkner (16-12 overall, 9-9 SSAC) into the West Division's No. 2 seeding in next week's SSAC tournament in Rome, Ga. The Eagles, who started 0-6 in conference play, will battle Lee, the third seed out of the East Division, on Thursday. The game time has yet to be announced. Auburn Montgomery (5-23 overall, 2-16 SSAC) ended its season with its 11th-straight loss.
Palmore scored 10 of Faulkner's 15 points during the decisive late-game stretch, with fellow seniors Decorey Jones and Adam Okechukwu each adding key baskets to help the Eagles take control. Playing in front of a raucous crowd on Senior Day, the three combined for 48 points and 19 rebounds to pace Faulkner's attack. Palmore led the way with 23 points and five rebounds, with Jones adding 15 points and six rebounds and Okechukwu 10 and eight.
"I'm not the kind of guy that just lays down when things aren't going well, and our guys aren't either, so even with the six losses to start the conference season they never stopped working and never stopped believing," Faulkner head coach Jim Sanderson said. "We had some injuries to some of our players and lost a couple others, but we had a saying that we stuck to. It's 'we're all we got' and the guys stuck together and today's win magnifies that.
"We didn't play all that well, but we won as a team and I'm very proud of them. These three seniors are very special to me and this program, and now we'll head to Georgia and see what happens."
The largest lead in the first half for either team was five, with AUM ending the opening 20 minutes by scoring the final five points, grabbing a 28-26 lead at the break on Marquez Brooks' long 3-pointer. Palmore had only six points before intermission, but with the game hanging in the balance hit five straight shots to finish off the Warhawks.
AUM was led by Da'Keidres Wade's 12 points, with Alex Hargott adding 10. The Warhawks committed 22 turnovers to Faulkner's 15, and were outrebounded by the Eagles 30-27.
On Jan. 7, after a narrow loss at Southern Wesleyan, the Eagles were 0-6 in the SSAC and in last place in the West Division. With four of the losses coming in the final minute, it looked to be an extremely uphill battle just to make it the post-season, much less climb past five of the other six teams in the standings.
"I've always thought you learn more about yourself when things aren't going your way than you do when they are," Sanderson said. "We had to play through all the misfortune, and we were able to do that. Again, these guys deserve all the credit in the world for not giving up."