By Matt Green
FRANKLIN SPRINGS, Ga. – Anthony Banks poured in a team-high 22 points -- 14 in the second half -- and the Shorter men's basketball team used a huge run to open the final 20 minutes en route to a 66-46 victory over eighth-seeded Bob Jones University in the quarterfinals of the NCCAA South Region Tournament on Thursday afternoon.
The Hawks (16-11), seeded No. 1 in the regional, advance to Friday's 3 pm semifinal against fifth-seeded Pensacola Christian, a 77-76 winner over No. 4 seed Southeastern University in Thursday's first quarterfinal.
"That team played awfully hard," said Shorter head coach Chad Warner of Bob Jones (6-24), which ended its season by dropping a sixth straight game. "We were very fortunate. The first game of a tournament can sometimes be the toughest. We started the game well, but I think we relaxed a bit and they hit some big shots that raised their energy level.
"We picked up the tempo in the second half and that was the difference for us."
Kenny Leverette scored 15 points and pulled a team-high 10 boards and Dedric Ware chipped in with 11 points, six assists and three steals for the Hawks, who held Bob Jones scoreless over the first 5:42 of the second half to turn 30-30 halftime deadlock into a rout.
Banks scored seven points during an 11-0 spurt to start the second frame and a Leverette 3 from the corner capped a 22-2 Shorter run that gave the Hawks their largest lead of the game, 52-32, with 11:37 to play.
Bob Jones slowly chipped away and pulled to within 11 on an Evan Brondyke trey with 3:30 remaining, but Walter Hill answered with a 3, Banks a transition layup and Leverette a put-back to extend Shorter's lead back up to 18 with 2:10 left.
The Hawks held Bob Jones to 16 points on 24 percent shooting in the second half. The Bruins shot just 30 percent for the game.
Shorter took the Bruins' best shot in a first half that saw the Hawks blow an early 12-point lead.
The Hawks scored 14 of the game's first 16 points, but it wasn't enough to break the spirit of a scrappy Bob Jones bunch. Behind their leading scorer Zach Mercado, who netted 11 first half points, and three 3-pointers from Brondyke, the Bruins staged a run that eventually tied the game by halftime.
Shorter renewed its defensive intensity after the break, clamping down on Mercado and Brondyke to hold the duo to eight combined points in the second half. Brondyke finished with 15 to lead the Bruins while Mercado scored just two in the second stanza and finished with 13.
Warner and the Hawks now turn their attention to Pensacola, which impressed the coaching staff with a gritty win over an athletic Southeastern squad. The Eagles enter tomorrow's semifinal with a 17-12 record and riding a seven-game winning streak.
"Pensacola plays so hard, they execute and are very well coached," said Warner of PCC. "We have to play well. That's how it goes in tournament basketball."