Faulkner advances to SSAC semifinals

ROME, GA - Faulkner lost most of an 18-point second-half lead but made plays down the stretch to escape the first round of the Southern States Athletic Conference with a 79-72 victory over Emmanuel here Thursday night at The Forum.

The fifth-seeded Eagles (18-12) advance to the tournament's semifinals, where it will face No. 12 Lee, which blasted Brewton-Parker earlier in the day. The game tips off at 7. Fourth-seeded Emmanuel ended its season at 21-10.

Faulkner blistered the nets in the first half, hitting 60 percent of its shots in racing to a 39-26 advantage. The first part of the final 20 minutes brought much of the same as the Eagles built the advantage to 51-33 with 12:55 left. Emmanuel, however, used a bruising offensive rebound advantage to fight its way back in it. Getting numerous second- and third-chance opportunities, the Lions slowly cut into the lead. A 12-2 run, sparked by a Graham Maxwell three-pointer, brought Emmanuel to within 53-45 with 8:23 left.

The Eagles' lead was 69-62 with 2:36 to play, but the Lions refused to go away. An Avery Morris basket and subsequent free throw sliced the Faulkner lead to 71-70 with 1:01 left, but Randell Moore and De Hereford each hit a pair of free throws in the final minute to put the game away.

Faulkner won despite being out rebounded 47-36, with the Lions grabbing a whopping 29 offensive boards. The Eagles finished the game by making 54 percent of their shots, while the Lions, who had 36 more shots from the field, made only 32 percent.

Adam Okechukwu had a career-high 25 points to lead the Faulkner effort. Chris Palmore added 14, while Moore added 13 and Drew Boland 11. Emmanuel was paced by Tedrick Hudson's 19 points and Maxwell's 16 points.