Hometown favorites, the Morehouse Maroon Tigers, fell to the Benedict College Tigers in the finals of the 80th Annual SIAC Men’s Basketball Championship.
In a dog fight that kept hostile fans in the Frank L. Forbes Arena on edge throughout the evening, Morehouse’s missed opportunities on free throws and sloppy play with turnovers led to their demise as Benedict captured their second consecutive SIAC Basketball Championship, 68-60.
“It was a battle,” Benedict Coach Fred Watson said. “Morehouse is a physical team, well coached and ran a lot of good stuff. They schemed us out of what we wanted to do. It took us a little while as a team to figure out what we needed to do.
The loss by the Maroon Tigers may mean the end of a season, but also recaps one of the most successful seasons in school history, thanks to newly named SIAC Coach of the Year, Grady Brewer.
Brewer and his team were predicted to finish sixth in the east division during the preseason after wrapping up the 2011-2012 season at 8-19, with a loss in the first round at last year’s conference tournament. Going into the new year, Morehouse began living up to low expectation by starting the season 1-5.
Out of nowhere, the Maroon Tigers went on a school record-tying 14-game winning streak and posted a 15-2 conference record, earning them a share of the SIAC East Division regular season title with Benedict.
“Any time you win 19 out of 22 ball games, you’ve done a great job,” Brewer said. “We just hope that the NCAA Division II selection committee will allow us the opportunity to play.”
The 2012-13 basketball season was Brewer’s thirteenth as head coach at Morehouse, after serving 13 seasons as an assistant to the legendary Arthur McAfee, who coached 35 seasons at Morehouse, compiling more than 450 wins.
Players named to the All-Tournament team from Morehouse were center Andrae Nelson, who had 20 points, and guard Darrius Williams scoring 17 points and grabbing 11 rebounds in the championship game.
“It was a good run, felt good being back on court,” Williams said. “My team played hard. We have a lot of guys coming back next year, so we’re just going to take this loss right here and we’re going to be ready to respond for next time.”
By winning the conference tournament, Benedict automatically receives a bid to play in the NCAA Division II National Basketball Tournament. Morehouse, who was ranked sixth in the South region, did not receive an at-large bid by the tournament committee and ended its season on the sour note of losing in the championship game. But Brewer doesn’t see it as a defeat.
“Great players make great coaches at any level,” Brewer said reflecting on this season’s accomplishments. “It’s a sweet victory for the people in Forbes Arena because it’s nice to see them able to come to a playoff game and for a championship game because in the past we haven’t been past the first round. I love these guys. I love them all. They’re going to get their chance.”