Coach Tommy Brown and his Lee men's basketball team will long remember their first Gulf South Conference and NCAA Division II victory. Despite being out-rebounded 45-27, the Flames found a way to turn back a strong and very physical West Florida club on Monday night in Walker Arena.
Not only did the visitors out-rebound Lee by 18, they also pulled down 21 offensive boards. "I don't think I've ever had a team give up that many offensive rebounds," admitted the Lee coach after the heart-throbbing 82-76 win.
"This is just a sample of the kind of teams we are going to be facing during the Gulf South season." The contest was tied four times and offered six lead changes. West Florida also had 20 second-chance points to only eight for Lee.
The Flames improved to 5-2 and will face an even bigger challenge on Thursday at 8 p.m. when Valdosta State visits Walker Arena. "They are bigger and stronger than West Florida," Brown pointed out. "We are going to have to play a lot of zones because of our size disadvantage and we have to learn how to rebound out of the zones."
The contest grew to a fever-pitch in the final four minutes. Lee's final surge in the four-minute span was highlighted by a pair of 3-pointers and two free throws by Chad Lee, another trey from Corey Billingsley and a goal from behind the arc by Stedmon Ford. The result was a 77-72 lead by the Flames with less than two minutes remaining.
The Argonauts fought back before the Flames capped off the win by making 3-of-4 free throws, followed by a game-ending dunk by Valentino Thomas.
Lee only attempted nine 3-pointers the entire evening but canned six. They helped overcome West Florida's huge rebounding advantage by knocking down 30-of-37 free throws and shooting a solid 44 percent (23-of-52) from the field.
Billingsley paced Lee's scoring with 24 markers. He was 12-of-13 from the charity stripe, 5-of-7 from the field and 2-of-2 from behind the arc. "Corey has a special way of taking the ball to the basket and maintaining his balance," Brown said. "They kind of slowed him down when they went to a sagging defense but he picked it up again when we needed it the most."
Thomas added 13 points and a team-high six rebounds, while Ford tallied 12 points. Tyquan Roberts pitched in with nine and Chad Lee had eight points, three blocks and two steals. "They all contributed in the win but we also got some good minutes from Brice Sharp, Evan Forhetz, Jamal Worthington and Jay Marquette," Brown said.
The Flames and Argonauts both shot 44 percent from the field. However, West Florida made only 2-of-9 3-pointers and was out-scored by the Flames by 14 points at the free-throw line.
Nate Johnson continued to pile up double-doubles by leading the West Florida with 19 points and 10 rebounds. However, Ellis Young came off the bench and contributed 22 key points. Savon Bracey had some foul problems but still managed 14 points and nine boards, while Terrence Townes followed with 11 points and five rebounds.
Community Appreciation Week continues on Thursday when the Flames and Lady Flames host Valdosta State in a doubleheader that is slated to tip off at 6 p.m. Adults will be admitted for half-price ($3) and high school age students and under will receive free admission.
Lady Flames 58, West Florida 53
For 32 minutes coach Marty Rowe said his Lee women's basketball team played well, but he was not pleased with the final eight minutes of action by his Lady Flames as they opened Gulf South Conference play on Monday evening at Walker Arena.
Lee led by as much as 16 points in the second half against a very quick and athletic West Florida team. The 58-53 outcome was never seriously threatened but 25 turnovers made things a little uncomfortable for the veteran Lee coach.
It was a history-making night for the Lady Flames as they recorded their first Gulf South Conference and NCAA Division II victory. Rowe's club will have very little time to rest before another GSC opponent visits on Thursday to close out the pre-Christmas schedule.
"I know our girls were a little banged up and leg weary after two challenging road games at Bellramine and Bethel last week," said Rowe. "We are not looking to make excuses and we certainly cannot afford to make the careless mistakes we made in the final eight minutes. Our girls are going to have to realize that none of the teams in this league will quit if we get out to a 15-point lead."
Lee led by 10 points at the break, 31-21 and its defense held the speedy Argonauts in check. The lead continued to grow during the first 12 minutes of the second half but floor mistakes and improved shooting by the Pensacola club narrowed the gap.
The Lady Flames were paced by senior Karley Miller. Her double-double consisted of 17 points, 15 rebounds and three blocked shots. She was 7-of-13 from the field, 1-of-2 from 3-point range and made 2-of-4 free throws in 32 minutes of playing time. "That was probably Karley's best ever all-around game for us," complimented Rowe. "She has really stepped up her play in the last three games." Rowe pointed out that Miller also had nine offensive rebounds as Lee won the battle of the boards 53-27.
Hollie German tallied 13 of her 16 points in the first half. She added four rebounds and two assists. Jenna Adams also registered a double-double, 15 points and 10 rebounds. Only six Lady Flames scored. Myriah Iles came off the bench for six points and four rebounds, while Madison Lee had six boards to go along with her two points and three assists.
Lee shot 41 percent from the field (21-of-51) but struggled a bit at the line, converting 10-of-18. The defense held West Florida to 29 percent shooting (18-of-63). The Argonauts did convert 13-of-17 freebies. Tessah Holt had 17 points and nine rebounds in the loss, while Jenny Menz came off the bench to add 14.
The Lady Flames improved to 5-2 overall and West Florida dropped to 5-3. Community Appreciation Night continues on Thursday against Valdosta. Adults will be admitted for half price ($3) while high school age students and younger will be admitted free.