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Patriots fall short in tourney semi; Burton named Coach of the Year

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16-game turnaround is best in all of college hoops this year

By The Staff

SCC Sports Information

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You didn’t have to be at Friday’s Mid-South Conference Tournament semi-final in Frankfort to figure out what led the Campbellsville Tigers to a 68-62 win over the St. Catharine College Patriots. Just look at the final stats sheet and the 9-13 statistic will jump off the page.

Those numbers represent how many 3-point goals the Tigers made in the victory. And for the large number of SCC fans in attendance, they had to wince during a decisive stretch in the first half when the long-range shooting was especially deadly. With the Patriots ahead 24-20, the tournament’s top-seeded Tigers (26-6) nailed three consecutive treys to grab a 29-24 lead. That catapulted them to a 33-27 halftime advantage, and the Patriots never regained the lead.

“That is what they do, they are a streaky shooting team,” said Patriot coach J.T. Burton. “That shooting plus their rebounding advantage (34-28) made the difference in the game.”

But it was still a game where the outcome was undecided until the final minute. The Patriots had cut the lead to one point with under two minutes to go, but could never pull even as the Tigers lived at the free-throw line in the final stages. In the final minute Campbellsville made 10 of 12 charity tosses to seal the win. For the game they were 23-36 at the line while the Patriots were 11-17.

Arthur Latham had 22 points and eight rebounds to lead the Patriots, who finished the season at 21-11. Brandon Johnson had 12 points and grabbed eight boards.

The loss came on the heels of one of the most exciting St. Catharine victories in the history of the program. That was in Wednesday’s opening round game against Pikeville when the Patriots pulled out a thrilling 62-60 win in the final second.

St. Catharine had taken a 60-58 lead at the :39 mark, but the Bears’ Justin Hicks tied the score with two free throws six second later. Then the heroics belonged to Josh Edwards as the Patriots played for the final shot in regulation. That came with 1.4 seconds left when Edwards drove to the left of the lane, put up a five-foot shot from the baseline that found the basket. Pikeville’s ensuing inbounds pass was tipped by the Patriots as time expired.

“It (the Edwards’ shot) is a play we have worked on for that kind of situation,” explained Burton. “He can get to the rim, and as hot as he was, we wanted him to have the ball at the end.”

Edwards, a junior from Atlanta, had 20 points on 9-15 from the field. He also had five rebounds and three assists. Latham led all scorers with 22 points. Ervin Williams had eight points and eight rebounds.

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In Sunday’s championship game Georgetown downed Campbellsville 64-61. It was the third championship in the last four years for Georgetown (26-6), who received the automatic bid to the NAIA national tournament. Campbellsville, however, will no doubt receive an at-large bid for the national tourney.

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J.T. Burton, in just his second year as head coach of the St. Catharine College Patriots, was named Mid-South Conference Coach of the Year. The award was presented Thursday at the men’s basketball conference banquet in Frankfort.

“Oh, you hear talk about that award, but it still came as a surprise,” said Burton. “After all, you look at the turnaround at Campbellsville (Coach Keith Adkins) where they won just two games in the conference last year and this year they were regular season champions with 12 wins.”

Burton led a pretty impressive turnaround himself. In the initial year as an NAIA member, the Patriots won one conference game and were 5-24 overall. That slate improved this year to an 8-6 conference mark and a record of 21-11 overall.

“We had a good year, but none of that is possible without my assistant coach Matt Stearsman,” added Burton. “He is without a doubt the best assistant in the nation. He does a tremendous job with scouting and game preparation and recruiting.”

Other awards came the Patriots’ way at Thursday’s banquet. Senior Arthur Latham and junior Ervin Williams were named All-Conference. Josh Edwards and Kevin Owens received honorable mention All-Conference recognition. Brandon Johnson and Kris Caufield both were academic all-conference.

The women’s conference banquet was held Wednesday when three Patriots received awards. Erin Rogers, a senior guard, was named to the honorable mention All-Conference team. Rogers also was named to the academic All-Conference team. Two players who redshirted this year due to injuries, Taylor Oliver and Whitney Jordan, also received the academic All-Conference honor.