Top-seed Benedict needed overtime to beat back a determined charge from seventh-seed Tuskegee to defeat the Tigers 74-69 to take their third men's SIAC Tournament title in the last five years in Birmingham Sunday evening. Benedict outscored Tuskegee 16-11 in the overtime period to get the win. Martinis Woody led the charge en route to being named to the All Tournament Team. Freshman Michael Holmes was named MVP of the Tournament and Fred Watson was named the Outstanding Coach. Unable to protect a small lead late in regulation, Tuskegee's surprising ride through the tourney came to an end as No. 1 seed Benedict held off the Golden Tigers 74-69 at Fair Park Arena on Sunday.
Benedict head coach Fred Watson said his team had to do something to keep Tuskegee from controlling the tempo of the game and keeping the score in check.
"We can usually play any way. But Tuskegee spreads teams out so much, we wanted to slow them down," Watson said. "Going up and down didn't work for the other teams so we didn't want to try it." After playing four games in five days including a double overtime thriller on Friday night Tuskegee head coach Leon Douglas said his team still had plenty of gas left but they lost to the better team.
"They're a good team, third in the region. You don't win 24 games by being a mediocre team," Douglas said. "The best team won today. Play again, we might win tomorrow. But conditioning didn't play a factor."
Tuskegee never led in the overtime period but looked to be in position to win at the end of regulation. Ahead by two with 34 seconds remaining, freshman center Michael Kimber missed the front end of 1-and-1 bonus free throw to give Benedict another opportunity. The Tigers then took advantage of a busted Tuskegee defense when Martinez Woody was left alone under the basket to tie the game at 58 with 22 seconds left. "I thought we had an understanding that I was supposed to stay at the top. When they told me to get back, it was too late," Kimber said.
Tuskegee got the ball back but Preston McCarter turned the ball over with two seconds left. Benedict's Charles Gibbs got off a wild half court shot but it wasn't close, sending the game to overtime.
The Golden Tigers controlled the opening tip of the extra period, but Keith Flournoy lost the ball, leading to a Benedict basket. Tuskegee was unable to recover.
"We made some sill turnovers that really hurt us," said McCarter, who had 12 points, eight rebounds and joined Flournoy on the All-Tournament team. "In a tight game, you can't afford turnovers in those situations."
There were no big comebacks or huge leads to protect for Tuskegee, which had come back from 20-points down on Friday and enjoyed a 30-point advantage on Saturday. The Golden Tigers' biggest lead was five points while Benedict led by seven with 13 seconds to go in the game.
In taking the guards out of the game, the battle of the big men looked to favor Benedict, especially with one of the top defensive players in the league Woody manning the low post. But Kimber was nearly unstoppable, leading the Golden Tigers with 23 points and nine rebounds.
Woody, though, enjoyed even better results with 22 points, 18 rebounds and five blocked shots. More importantly, he made the baskets that the Tigers needed the most.
"We played our style. They just hit shots when they needed to," said Rashaune Walters, who had 11 points. "That's what got them through."
Note: Bennie Lewis shot 17 points, Charles Gibbs 15 and Darius Lane 10 with six assists and just one turnover.
75th Annual SIAC Basketball Tournament All Tournament Team
#34 Michael Holmes Benedict
#50 Martinis Woody Benedict
#10 Keith Flournoy Tuskegee
#21 Preston McCarter Tuskegee
#14 Najee Lane Clark Atlanta
Tournament Most Valuable Player: Michael Holmes Benedict
Outstanding Coach of the Tournament: Fred Watson Benedict