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Basketball, Men

Bench boosts Benedict to win

Posted on Mon, Mar. 17, 2008

Tiger reserves play major role in South Regional final victory against Tampa

By RAYMOND BEASOCK - Special to The State

LAKELAND, Fla. - Benedict coach Fred Watson has a lot of faith in his bench. They certainly lifted his spirits on Sunday evening.

The Tigers' reserves outscored and outworked Tampa and helped the team shoot 60 percent from the field for a 73-59 victory to advance to the South Regional final on Tuesday night at Jenkins Gymnasium at Florida Southern College.

Second-seeded Benedict put up 34 bench points while holding Tampa's reserves to nothing. The depth charge was led by Charles Gibbs' 15 points and Zachary Barron's 14.

"I trust my bench," Watson said. "I wanted to use them early and keep the guys fresh. Tampa's probably got the best (starting) five in the region, but I thought if we could stay fresh we could wear them down."

Three of the third-seeded Spartans' starters played the entire game and were able to find the will to spark a rally that cut the Tigers' lead to to 60-51 with 3:24 left. But Benedict starter Bennie Lewis helped drain them of any fight they had left with a 3-pointer just as the shot clock was about to expire. Tampa never got closer than nine the rest of the way, and Lewis helped cap the victory with a two-handed slam for the Tigers' final points.

Lewis led the Tigers (28-4) in scoring with 20 points and was perfect from the field on two-point field goals. He finished 4-for-8 from beyond the arc and was 8-for-12 from the field for the game.

Tampa coach Richard Schmidt said his team's lack of depth was a big factor in Benedict's success.

"They spread us out," Schmidt said. "Our defense has been up and down all year and some guys having to play 40 minutes, they just ran out of gas.

"Our depth certainly isn't comparable."

Benedict's bench got going early and allowed them to build a 31-24 halftime lead.

Zachary Barron scored eight of his points in the first half, including three baskets in a row, as the teams traded the lead early. A 13-5 run to end the first half gave the Tigers a lead they did not relinquish thanks to tough defense that held the Spartans to 34.5 percent shooting for the game. Tampa was also 7-for-27 from 3-point range.

"We didn't play well," Schmidt said. "If we shot like we're capable of we would have been OK. I give them credit for making us play like we did."

On the other end, Watson can only hope that his team can keep it up against the winner of North Alabama and Ouachita Baptist on Tuesday night. If the Tigers do advance to the Elite Eight they will become the first Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference team to make it that far since 1991.

"This is huge for the program, huge for the city and huge for the conference," Watson said. "We're playing not only for ourselves but for the school and the community. We're going to take it only one game at a time and just try to get prepared."

Source: The State Newspaper

SEE ALSO Basketball Summaries

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