Hoopsville Classic: Panthers bounce back

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Griffin Schamp's twisting shot lifted Birmingham-Southern to victory
Photo by Larry Radloff, D3photography.com

By Rob Knox

OWINGS MILLS, Md. – Griffin Schamp and Larry Thomas were right where they wanted to be for the Birmingham-Southern men’s basketball team – in another close game with an immediate chance at redemption.

After falling short down the stretch in their Friday loss to Salisbury, Schamp and Thomas made sure the Panthers revised the script.

In the game of the day, Schamp took a pass from Thomas and drove to the basket for what ultimately proved to be the decisive basket with 2.1 seconds remaining for Birmingham-Southern in a thrilling 70-69 victory over host Stevenson University Saturday night before a packed house in the Hoopsville Classic.

Stevenson had a final chance for the win, but a halfcourt heave landed just wide of the basket.

"We gave a dribble handoff to Larry and he drove to the middle of the floor," Schamp said. "They had been giving so much attention to him and he drew my man, too. He kicked it back to me and gave me enough time to get a crease to the lane. Luckily, the ball dropped for me. We have a lot of plays to combat when teams give lots of attention to one player."

Birmingham-Southern improved its record to 3-1 overall while Stevenson dropped to 2-1. Both teams split their games during this weekend’s showcase event.

It appeared as if Stevenson would remain perfect after Schamp turned the ball over with the Panthers trailing, 69-68 with 21 seconds remaining. However, the Panthers applied pressure on the ensuing inbounds pass and forced a Stevenson miscue. With another opportunity to make it a happy ending, Birmingham-Southern seized the moment. Since Thomas had burned Stevenson for a game-high 20 points, the ball ended up his hands. Two defenders followed Thomas. An open Schamp rolled to the basket.

"The play we called at the end was meant to back cut or ball screen and we had to read what the defense was doing," Thomas said. "They were hugging up on me all game. They helped up on me so I pitched it back to Griffin since he's a great finisher and he was open. I like to shoot the ball, but being able to help my team get buckets is also a great feeling. This was a tough game in a great environment."

The final 2:46 of the barn-burner featured five lead changes and left fans exhausted. In one of the better early season games, Stevenson and Birmingham Southern treated the crowd to a high-level display of quality hoops as every big basket was answered by a bigger one.

Schamp's decisive basket was a response to Erik Fisher's putback that put the Mustangs ahead, 69-68, with 38 seconds remaining. That effort followed Lewi'’ go-ahead three-pointer from the corner with 53 seconds remaining that gave BSC a 68-67 advantage. That basket came after Justin Kuntz's layup that gave Stevenson a lead with 1:19 remaining.

After falling behind, 32-19, 14 minutes into the contest, the Panthers ended the first half by scoring 17 of the final 21 points to force a 36-36 score at halftime. The entire second half was played within a six-point radius. During the closely contested second half, the Panthers' largest advantage was three points while Stevenson's biggest lead was six points at 61-55 with 7:38 remaining.

Schamp and Ross Welch scored 13 points each for Birmingham Southern, which won the rebounding battle, 36-30. After grabbing 19 offensive rebounds in its win over No. 18 Middlebury Friday night, Stevenson finished with six offensive boards.

Stevenson's entire starting five reached double figures led by Kuntz's 15 points. Alfonzo Hawkins scored 14 points and Fisher finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Darius Walker supplied 12 points along with seven assists while Christian Roberts contributed 10 points.

While the setback was tough for Stevenson, it will benefit from playing in a tight game against a quality opponent later in the season. The Mustangs have no time to dwell on the defeat as they prepare to host Alvernia Tuesday night in a battle of the Commonwealth Conference elite. Alvernia and Stevenson were picked as the conference favorites in the preseason coaches' poll.

Email Rob Knox at rob.knox@d3hoops.com and follow on twitter at @knoxrob1.