By Matt Green
No. 1 Hawks (15-11) vs. No. 8 Bob Jones (6-23)
Thursday, March 7; 3 pm; Franklin Springs, Ga.
FRANKLIN SPRINGS, Ga. – With its female counterpart having already established itself as the best in the South Region, Shorter's men's basketball team now takes center stage.
The Hawks make their National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) postseason debut this afternoon when they open play at the South Region Tournament against Bob Jones at 3 pm on the campus of Emmanuel College in Franklin Springs, Ga.
Shorter (15-11), the tournament's top seed, starts the journey towards a second straight national tournament appearance against eighth-seeded Bob Jones (6-23). The winner of the eight-team South Region Tournament earns an automatic bid to the NCCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship in Winona Lake, Ind., March 13-16.
Shorter's women have already punched their ticket to Indiana thanks to a 74-47 victory over Emmanuel in the Women's South Region Tournament championship game on Wednesday night, and Shorter's men hope to join the Lady Hawks with a similar run through their own regional.
In order to do so, Shorter will have to navigate through a regional that includes No. 2 seed Point – one of three teams to beat Shorter during last year's record setting 34-3 campaign – and two former Southern States Athletic Conference rivals in fourth-seeded Southern Wesleyan and seventh-seeded Truett-McConnell.
First, the Hawks will need to get by Bob Jones; a team that enters postseason play on a five-game losing streak.
The Bruins have had their issues scoring the basketball this season, averaging just over 62 points a game. Sophomore guard Zach Mercado is the only Bruin averaging double figures at 10.2 points a game, and almost assuredly will draw the assignment of having to deal with Shorter's ball hawk Kenny Leverette, who has made a career of shutting down the opponent's top perimeter threat.
On paper, this matchup appears ideal for a Shorter team that has shown the ability to light up a scoreboard while also clamping down on opponents with a high pressure, high energy defensive philosophy.
Bob Jones will have to find a way to slow four Hawks averaging double figures – seniors Walter Hill (15.4 ppg), Anthony Banks (14.9) and Leverette (10.5) are joined by sophomore Dedric Ware (13.7) at the top of Shorter's scoring charts this season and have propelled a balanced attack that has hurt opponents from inside and out.
Junior Brandon Pullman has also shown hints of scoring prowess at times and comes off the bench averaging just over eight points a game.
The winner of the Shorter-Bob Jones matchup will play the winner of Thursday's first quarterfinal that features Southern Wesleyan and No. 5 seed Pensacola Christian. That semifinal is set to take place tomorrow at 3 pm.
Fans unable to make the trip to Franklin Springs can listen to the action by tuning in to WATG-FM 95.7 The Ridge or by accessing the live webcast courtesy of the link on the Shorter Athletics webpage.