March 7, 2009

Courtesy of Averett Athletics

DANVILLE, Ky. — Guilford College's strong second half start proved to be too much for Averett to overcome down the stretch. The Quakers ended Averett's season with a 91-81 win over the Cougars in the second round of the Division III NCAA Tournament on Saturday night at Centre College's Alumni Gymnasium.

"It's tough to lose," said senior Jonathan Rumley, who led Averett with 29 points. "I felt like we had a good shot. ... To play my last game for Averett, it's sad."

Guilford (23-5) rattled off six straight points to start the second half, and the Quakers turned a one-point halftime lead to a 56-45 advantage less than five minutes into the second half.

Rumley did his best to bring the Cougars (21-9) back. The 6-foot-3 guard scored Averett's next 14 points to cut Guilford's lead to 61-59 with 12:34 to play.

"Coach told me there was a lot of time left in the game, but I kind of felt like it was my responsibility to get going at that point in the game," Rumley said. "The team needed me."

Guilford answered with consecutive nine points in the next minute and a half to rebuild its lead to double digits. The Cougars chipped away and pulled within four when a Hart 3-pointer cut the Quakers' lead to 76-72 with 4:16 remaining. That would be as close as Averett would get after Guilford took control in the final minutes.

"Guilford was pretty consistent in their scoring," Allen said. "They shot a real high percentage both halves. We just couldn't ever get the stop we needed. When we got them to miss, we'd give up offensive rebounds."

Guilford's size in the post and outside shooting gave the Cougars trouble for most of the game. The Quakers shot 60 percent from the floor in the first half and 55.6 percent overall for the game. Averett was also outrebounded 44-25.

Averett's defense helped give the Cougars the early edge. Senior Damien Brown's steal and layup in transition put Averett ahead 18-11 with 11:08 left in the first half. The Cougars pushed that lead to 21-11 on a Kenny Hart 3-pointer, causing Guilford to use a 30-second timeout.

The Quakers regrouped and scored 10 straight points to tie the game. The two teams traded the lead several times in the final minutes of the half, with Averett going up 41-40 on a Chris Pagentine 3-pointer with 25 seconds remaining. Guilford, however, took a 42-41 advantage into the locker room after hitting a pair of free throws with 6.7 seconds to go in the half.

"In the first half, we scored with them," Allen said. I don't know that we ever stopped them."

Guilford is 4-1 against Averett during Allen's five years with the Cougars. The Quakers also beat Averett by 10 points earlier this year with a 73-63 victory at the Grant Center.

"In the last couple of year's they've just gotten the better of us down the stretch," Allen said.

Guilford was led by Rhett Bonner's 27 points. Clay Henson scored 23 points and Tyler Sanborn added 19 points and 14 rebounds.

Rumley led Averett with 29 points and six assists. Hart finished with 16 points and Brown had 11 points.

The loss ended the Cougars' 12-game winning streak, as well as the careers of their six seniors who made up one of the most prolific classes in school history. During their four seasons, Averett had a 75-39 record, won three USA South Conference regular-season titles, three conference tournament titles and made three NCAA Tournament appearances. Averett's NCAA win on Friday night against Centre College was the program's first since 1990.

"It's hard to put into words what we did," Allen said. "I think once we get home and are able to look back on it, we can enjoy it a little bit more, especially since right now we're pretty disappointed because we felt awfully good about having a chance to win this basketball game. But I'm just so proud of our seniors and our whole basketball team and what they were able to accomplish."