Getting there wasn’t easy.
The Bears battled back from a 13-point, second-half deficit and needed overtime to knock off Enterprise State 79-74 at Shelton State Wednesday morning in the Alabama Community College Conference Tournament opener.
Bevill State, the No. 4 seed from the North Division, takes on Alabama Southern, the South’s top seed, at 1 p.m. today.
“There was nothing easy about it,” Bevill State coach Rick Bolling said. “We just don’t know how to win easy games. We’ve got to make them all close I guess. Enterprise came to play. Sometimes you have to get past one of those games. Somehow we overcame it. We’re going to have to play better (today). I’ve got a hunch there is something good in store for these kids. I’m packing for three days tomorrow.”
The tournament concludes on Saturday.
Enterprise had the Bears on the brink of elimination on Wednesday, leading 63-57 with less than 90 seconds remaining in regulation.
Behind Ricky Sears and Chris Key, Bevill State mounted a late rally.
Sears cut the gap to 63-60 with a 3-pointer at 1:13 mark. Following a Bevill State steal, Key threw down a dunk and completed a 3-point play to notch the score at 63-63 with 33 seconds remaining.
The Bears (19-12) took a late lead after another steal and a pair of Key free throws with 11 seconds left, but Enterprise’s Jeremy Ingram hit a layup with five seconds left to send the game into overtime.
The teams traded 3-pointers in the opening seconds of the extra frame, but Bevill State took control from there, going on a 7-0 run. Sears connected on a 3-pointer with 3:10 remaining to put the Bears ahead for good at 71-68. Kaderius Gunnerson added a basket and Sears hit two free throws for 75-68 lead with 1:10 remaining.
Enterprise (4-24) got within two points at 76-74 after a Shaq Harris 3-pointer with 28 seconds left, but William Johnson knocked down three free throws after the final 22 seconds to ice the victory.
Enterprise led 34-28 at the half. The Boll Weevils pushed the lead to 43-30 after starting the second half with a 9-2 run. Bevill State got back in the game with a 9-0 run of its own. Robert Wakefield had four points in the spurt, Gunnerson converted a 3-point play and E.J. Hardy made a basket.
Torrick Spangler finally drew Bevill State even at 56-56 with a basket at the 5:30 mark.
The Bears missed eight straight shots during a four-minute drought that ended with Sears’ 3-pointer with 1:13 left.
“We were very nervous. You expect that out of an inexperienced team. I can’t say enough about our kids being down by 13 points in the second half and coming back. They didn’t quit. They kept believing in themselves,” said Bolling, who has just two sophomores on the roster.
Bevill State’s bench outscored Enterprise 43-14 on the night. The Bears shot 42 percent from the field (28-of-67) and 51 percent from the free-throw line (19-of-37) while the Boll Weevils shot 43 percent (29-of-68) from the field and 89 percent from the line (8-of-9).
Gunnerson had a big game for the Bears, scoring 15 points and pulling down 14 rebounds. Sears also had 21 points, Wakefield had 10 points, Hardy and William Johnson each had eight points, Chris Key had five points and 12 rebounds and Ryan Ervin had five points.
For Enterprise, Shaq Harris hit six 3-pointers and finished with a game-high 27 points.
Alabama Southern (22-8), today’s opponent, received a first-round bye in the tournament and hasn’t played since Feb. 21.