Big sophomore night win for the Bears

Published 12:33 pm Friday, February 11, 2022

On a night where several Bears were honored during pregame Sophomore Day festivities, it was a freshman who arguably stole the show. With just seven seconds to go, Zach Shugars hoisted up a 3-pointer that banked off of the backboard and in representing the eventual game winner giving SMCC a 74-71 victory over visiting Mississippi Gulf Coast.

“I did it twice during State Championship (games) in high school,” said Shugars describing his game-winning bucket. “It was good to do it in JUCO but I’ve done it twice before. It was cool and we got a win.”

While Shugars’ make was his lone one in the game, the Bears (15-7, 8-5) got a huge performance from sophomore Zae Blake who wrapped up his regular season home play with a 25-point effort, 22 of which came in the second half alone.

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“On sophomore night, everyone was just together,” said Blake. “We had a good feeling, good practice. We just came together as a team and we took the open shots, it was a good team effort.”

For SMCC head coach Bryan Bender, he was elated to pick up the big victory over a very good Bulldog team, adding that his team is clicking at the right time.

“We talked about at the beginning of the game, actions over feelings,” SMCC head coach Bryan Bender said. “And that is part of maturity and part of growing up. And you are starting to see that with our guys, we’ve won five out of six.”

Feeding off of the emotions from the Sophomore Day ceremony prior to the game, early on it was the combination of sophomores Demarcus Ellzey and Quez Fountain who provided the first 10 points for the Bears (15-7, 8-5). Their contributions not only halted a 5-0 Gulf Coast run to start the game, but gave SMCC a 10-5 advantage.

A short time later, Ellzey got hot again, providing the next eight Bear points making it a 23-20 SMCC lead.

For the remainder of the first half, the Bears tried to pull away but the Bulldogs kept pace.

SMCC led 31-27 at the half.

Blake’s second half scoring frenzy kicked off early for the Bears as he recorded six of the first eight SMCC points. He alone posted more than half of his teams second half points, scoring in all facets including going 5-of-5 from the free throw line.

Two of his three second half 3-pointers were key for the Bears. His second came at the 5:02 mark and gave Southwest a 61-58 lead. His third came a little more than two minutes later and it once again put the Bears ahead, this time by a score of 68-66.

With just under two minutes to go, Trent Coleman entered the fray with a long ball of his own, once again giving the Bears the upper hand, this time at 71-69.

The Bulldogs quickly drew even with a make setting up Shugars to help his sophomores wrap up their regular season finale in Summit with a win.

While Blake led the way with 25 points, three other Bears also finished in double figures in scoring, Ellzey had 13 while Fountain poured in 12 and Jamil Bowles 11.

The Bears will finish their regular season slate on Monday with a road contest at Northwest Mississippi.

NOTE: During halftime of Thursday’s game, members of the 2001-02 Southwest Men’s Basketball MACJC South Championship Team were honored on the 20th anniversary of their stellar season.