Tigers win a defensive battle

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Adam Brazil got loose for two of his six points in the second half against Guilford.
Photo by Steve Frommell, d3photography.com | More photos from this game

By Ryan Scott

FORT WAYNE, Ind. – When Guilford defeated Hampden-Sydney 80-71 on Dec. 2, as part of their Old Dominion Athletic Conference schedule, it was an unusually high scoring game. This time around, more than 500 miles away from ODAC country and with a trip to the national championship on the line, these familiar foes played a decidedly defensive game.

The result was a 62-57 win for Hampden-Sydney. The Tigers will face Trine, which defeated Trinity (Conn.), in Saturday’s national title game.

Guilford’s Tyler Dearman, ODAC Player of the Year, started the game guarding HSC’s point guard Adam Brazil, which gummed up the offense early. The Tigers made adjustments during the first timeout and found creative ways to get the ball into Brazil’s hands, but they largely had to rely on other weapons to keep the offense moving.

“I still have to make an impact on the game, even if it’s not scoring,” says Brazil. “If [Guilford] says ‘we’ll take you away let the other guys beat us,’ our other guys will beat them.”

While Hampden-Sydney got more and better looks at the basket, Guilford did what they’ve done all season: grind it out and keep the score close.

Neither team shot exceptionally well, but that’s not unusual given the deeper sight lines in the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum. Luke Proctor did get hot late in the half, hitting four of six from deep to give the Quakers a 30-29 halftime lead.

The game was intensely physical and incredibly even. The lead went back and forth more than a dozen times and it seemed like whoever possessed the ball last would win, not because they’d defeated their opponent, but because time had run out.

Notes Brazil: “Coach told us we have to be more together now than we’ve ever been. It’s now or never. We went on that run, our togetherness, our enthusiasm, our positivity, that really fueled us.”

Shane Fernald, a 6-7, 260-pound sophomore, averaged just ten minutes and five points per game on the season, but he doubled both of those figures as Hampden-Sydney used his size to pound the Quakers down low, dominating both the glass and points in the paint.

Still, Guilford took a seven point lead with seven minutes to go on yet another Proctor three. This was the largest lead for either team and one that seemed conclusive, given how tight and tough the game had been. But Hampden-Sydney came back and hit two threes in a row, including Davidson Hubbard’s first of the game to cut it back to one and essentially reset things once again.

In the end, Hampden-Sydney proved just a little bit better. Fatigue appeared to be a factor down the stretch. Guilford was a step slower, a little more careless with the ball, and not as quick on defense. Brazil was able to get free and feed Hubbard for some big shots.

Ryan Clements got a great feed on his way to the basket for an emphatic dunk just under two minutes to play, which put the Tigers up six and proved to be the exclamation point on an epic battle.

Guilford would not go away, but Hampden-Sydney hit enough free throws down the stretch to win it, 62-57. They will play the winner of the second semifinal on Saturday at 4pm.

Dearman and Julius Burch, both fifth year players, who came back for one more run at the title, fittingly led Guilford with 16 points a piece. Burch also had 11 rebounds and nailed his first and only career three-pointer in the second half.

Hampden-Sydney got 16 from Hubbard and ten each from Clements and Fernald. The Tigers out-rebounded the Quakers 44-27, led by nine from Josiah Hardy.

The win was bittersweet for Hampden-Sydney coach, Caleb Kimbrough, a former Guilford player and assistant, who counts Guilford’s Tom Palombo as a mentor.

“I hate that we had to play Guilford. That’s my mentor. That’s the guy I worked for. I think he deserves to be in the national championship game. On the other hand, I’m incredibly proud of this group. We could’ve crumbled out there. Our guys took over. We tell them to win the moment, win the moment, and they won a lot of big moments tonight.”

The Tigers will face the winner of the second semifinal on Saturday at 4pm, but, as Brazil notes, the opponent is not the issue.

“At the end of the day it doesn’t matter who our opponent is, it matters what we do.”

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