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Basketball, Men

Benedict falls in region final

Posted on Wed, Mar. 19, 2008

North Alabama erases a six-point halftime deficit behind a big 2nd half by its center

By RAYMOND BEASOCK - Special to The State

LAKELAND, Fla. - It set up as a classic matchup between Lions and Tigers.

The outcome was unbearable for Benedict.

The Tigers let a six-point halftime advantage turn into a run away victory for North Alabama, 97-75, in the NCAA Division II South Region championship on Tuesday at Jenkins Gymnasium at Florida Southern College.

"We're headed in the right direction," Benedict coach Fred Watson said. "But this is not about the program tonight. I wanted to win this one for these guys who have worked so hard for me this year. Tonight, North Alabama was the better team."

Things turned sour for Benedict (28-5) at the start of the second half. The Tigers led 41-35 but North Alabama center Thomas Fraise took over. The 6-foot-6-inch junior scored 16 of his 30 points to start the second half and give the Lions a boost.

Once Fraise started hitting his shots, including two back-to-back 3-pointers that tied the game at 47, the Tigers double-teamed him. That opened up space for North Alabama guards Quinn Beckwith and Isaac Gay. The duo repeatedly hit big shots; Beckwith's 3-pointer with 12:51 remaining gave the Lions a lead they never relinquished.

"Our whole gameplan was to front him (Fraise)," Watson said. "We started sending people to help on him, and they started making their shots."

The plan worked for most of the first half as the Tigers overcame a 10-point deficit to lead at halftime.

Freshman Michael Holmes scored 14 points and grabbed seven rebounds in the first half to pace Benedict. Holmes finished with 20 points but couldn't do much as the Lions outscored the Tigers 62-34 in the second half.

"He (Fraise) is a tough low-post player," Holmes said. "If you're on his backside it's a basket. It's hard trying to get around him because of his size."

Fraise was named tournament MVP and said he had something to prove after the first two games of the tournament.

"I played horribly in the first two games," he said. "I owed it to the team to step up.

"The rim just felt like a hula hoop."

Beckwith chipped in 16 points and 10 rebounds for the Lions and Gay added 15 points.

The Tigers received 19 points and eight rebounds from Charles Gibbs and 13 from Darius Lane.

Source: The State Newspaper

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