As everyone headed home for spring break, the ETSU men’s basketball team headed to Asheville to compete in the SoCon Tournament at the U.S. Cellular Center.
Ranking second in the conference at the end of the regular season, the Bucs had a first-round bye, allowing them an extra day to prepare and wait to see who their opponent would be.
The Mercer Bears topped The Citadel in the first round and became ETSU’s opponent in the quarterfinals. Ge’Lawn Guyn (Lexington, Ky.) had the game-high of 25 points in the game. In the beginning, the Bucs held a solid lead when coming onto the floor with a press and defense locking it.
It was close at the end of the first half, with ETSU only leading Mercer 37-35, but they pulled away at the end of the game to come out with an 81-65 victory that led them into the semifinals.
In the semifinal game against Furman, the Bucs’ defense came in handy once again. The main focus for the Bucs was to keep SoCon Player of the Year, Stephen Croone of Furman, from scoring. They did just that, with Petey McClain’s (Mobile, Ala.) man-to-man defense marking Croone and keeping him scoreless for the first 20 minutes of the game. Once again at the half, the Bucs were ahead 38-31.
With the 84-76 win, the Bucs knocked out Furman and headed to the final championship against ultimate rival Chattanooga, who is the only team that beat ETSU twice in the regular season.
At the beginning of the game, the Bucs started off on top, looking solid and confident against the Mocs. However, for the first time in the tournament, the Bucs trailed at halftime with a score of 38-26.
The Bucs fought back hard in the second half, and the play that changed the game out of the Bucs favor started with junior T.J. Cromer (Albany, Ga.) going up for a three and coming back down, believing he had been fouled. Because of his actions, he was given a technical. Coach Steve Forbes was then given a second technical, and the Mocs went to the line to make three of four free throws.
There was four minutes of regular stoppage time in the game, and the Bucs trailed by five. However, they were unable to make up for the lost time and points the technical gave and finished with a tough loss to Chattanooga for the third time, 73-67.
Despite the loss in the championship game, the Bucs finished the season 23-11 overall.
They have been invited to play in the inaugural Vegas 16 Tournament in Las Vegas, Nevada, on March 28-30.