Faulkner earns dramatic 68-67 victory over AUM
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Faulkner turned to a pair of freshmen to keep its season alive in the closing minute, and Duke Phillips and Jake Mitchell responded to lift the Eagles to a dramatic 68-67 victory over Auburn Montgomery here Saturday in a Southern States Athletic Conference West Division showdown at the Physical Education Complex.
With the victory, the Eagles (11-18, 6-6 SSAC West) advance to next week's SSAC Tournament in Rome, Ga., as the fifth seed from the West Division. Faulkner will play Shorter, the fourth seed from the East, at 1 Wednesday afternoon.
The Senators (8-18, 5-7 SSAC West), whose season ended with the loss, led 67-63 after an Alex Hergott free throw with 1:09 left. On the ensuing Eagles' possession Phillips drained a long 3-pointer with :54 seconds left to pull Faulkner to within 67-66. AUM's Marquez Brooks missed a runner in the lane with 28 seconds left and Chris Palmore rebounded for Faulkner. After a timeout with 13 seconds left, Mitchell took a pass from Palmore on the perimeter and drove to the basket, laying it in with nine seconds still to play. Palmore intercepted a Senator pass with two seconds to play, setting off a wild Faulkner celebration."
"It's probably been 10 years since I've jumped so high at a basketball
game," said Faulkner head coach Jim Sanderson, referring to the NAIA national championship his team won a decade ago. "Both Duke and Jake made plays, and I'm so proud of them. I'm equally proud of how we defended on the last few possessions. We've lost some close ones this season, and now we're starting to win some."
It was Faulkner's third straight one-point win, and had it lost any of the
three it would not have made the post-season, a fact that didn't go
unnoticed by the Eagles' head coach.
"These guys have kept fighting even when things haven't gone so well," Sanderson said. "We found a way, and now our season continues. It's the post-season and we earned the right to keep playing, and I'm just really happy for our guys."
Palmore's 18 points and eight rebounds paced the Eagles' attack, while Birama Konate added 12 points and nine rebounds. Philips and Mitchell combined for 12, but the last five were the biggest.
"I just knew I was going to make that shot - I had all the confidence I
would," Phillips said. "Once it got down to one, I knew we'd win. We were going to do whatever it took."
For Mitchell, the decision to take the ball to the basket from the perimeter proved to the game-decider.
"The guy running at me was a post player, so I knew I'd be able to get by him to the basket," he said. "And nobody came over to help once I did. It was a great feeling to make that shot."
Neither team led by the more than five points in the first half, which ended with Faulkner on top 37-35. A Decorey Jones jumper gave the Eagles its largest lead at 46-39 with 16:35 left, but the Senators' Charles Perona scored six points in an 8-0 stretch that put AUM back on top. The Senators built their own seven-point lead at 64-57 with 6:10 to play, only to have Faulkner slowly crawl back in it.
A.J. Ansley led AUM with 14 points, while Perona finished with 13. Johnny Williams added 11 for the Senators.