No. 1 seed Xavier learned a tough lesson following Saturday night’s 106-102 double overtime loss to No. 4 seed Philander Smith in the semifinals of the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference Tournament.
Scoring is great. But it’s wasted energy without defense.
It’s the kind of lesson coach Dannton Jackson hoped he could avoid exposing first-hand to his young team, composed this season of five new starters. Yet after failing to hold on to a four-point advantage with less than three minutes remaining in regulation and in both overtimes, surrendering extra opportunities because of a lack of focus, the Gold Rush left the Convocation Center aware of the impact their miscues had on the scoreboard.
No box outs. No transition defense.
No GCAC Tournament championship.
“I don’t think we did a great job defending tonight, and it cost us,” Jackson said.
Now, Xavier (23-8), GCAC regular-season champions for the third consecutive season and ranked 12th in the latest NAIA Division I Coaches’Top 25 poll, must wait until Wednesday to learn if it receives an at-large bid into the NAIA Division I National Championships.
The Gold Rush are now in an unexpected position: waiting until mid week to learn their fate, instead of playing in Sunday’s tournament final with a chance to earn an automatic bid.
That’s what Philander Smith (20-10) will do, thanks to Braylon Spicer, who came off the bench to score 18 points - he converted all 14 free throw attempts. Trailing Xavier 83-79 with 2:37 left, Spicer reached the free throw line twice, helping the Panthers outscore Xavier 6-2 in the final seconds of overtime. Spicer made his last two free throws after Xavier’s Lucas Martin-Julien was called for a blocking foul with three seconds left.
Both teams scored eight points in the first overtime which ended as Martin-Julien missed a shot from near half court.
Philander Smith seized momentum in the second overtime, starting with Spicer reaching the line for two more free throws. After Xavier’s Sydney Coleman scored in the post, D’Alvin Brown countered with his sixth three pointer.
“I said if I get the ball, I was going to shoot it,” said Brown, who finished with 23 points.
And he did.
After a Martin-Julien miss, Philander Smith’s scored in the post, giving the Panthers a five-point lead with 2:30 left.
Xavier then struggled to come within one possession of Philander Smith, which moves on to play No. 2 seed Talladega on Sunday at 5 p.m.
Morris Wright led Xavier with 26 points. Anthony Goode added 19 points.
“There is no tomorrow, play like it’s your last,” Coleman (18 points) said of lessons learned Saturday night. “Make sure you box out and rebound because you can lose games like this.”
Xavier has reached Nationals 14 times, including three consecutive seasons.
No. 2 seed Talladega 76, No. 3 seed Edward Waters 62: The Tornadoes advanced to Sunday’s mens final thanks to Charles Winborne’s 25 points. He converted 7-of-11 three pointers and helped Talladega shoot 48 percent from the field.
Winborne’s performance was enough to outplay Edward Waters’ Nathaniel Hill, who scored 22 points with 17 rebounds.