BCC men upset No. 3 Northwest Florida 73-72

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By Michael Paul, Sports Editor

 The Brunswick Community College men’s basketball team defeated previously unbeaten No. 3 Northwest Florida State College 73-72 Dec. 3 in the Panhandle Classic in Marianna, Fla.

“It is the highest rated team we have ever beaten,” BCC coach Walter Shaw said. “And it is probably the biggest win in the history of the school outside of winning the region tournament championship (last season) and going to (the national tournament) in Hutchinson.

“We made a name for ourselves.”

Entering the game, BCC (then 4-4) was not favored to win. Northwest featured 6-foot-9 sophomore center Carl Hall, a transfer from Middle Georgia—the team that eliminated BCC in the national tourney last season. Hall will play next year for Division I Wichita State University.

“He basically ended our season last year,” Shaw said.

Northwest entered the game 10-0.

“They’re an imposing group of guys,” Shaw said about Northwest. “When they run out of the locker room, you know they’re ready to win. You look at them and you understand how they could be No. 3 in the country.”

It is a program with a tradition of success.

“They’re the first school to have an NBA lottery pick out of junior college, Kedrick Brown,” Shaw said. Brown was the 11th overall pick in 2001 by the Boston Celtics.

The contest was virtually a home game for Northwest, about an hour’s drive from the game site, Milton H. Johnson Health Center.

“Coming into the game ,we knew we were going to have to match their intensity and their physical play,” Shaw said. “We were going to have to overcome that they were bigger, stronger, more physical than we were.”

Nonetheless, Northwest outrebounded  BCC 59-30.

“They crushed us on the glass,” Shaw said. “We knew they were going to probably outrebound us.”

To overcome that, BCC concentrated on forcing turnovers.

“We couldn’t give them extra possessions,” Shaw said. “Which means we had to make shots and not make turnovers.”

The strategy worked, as BCC forced 16 turnovers and committed nine itself.

“We had our lowest turnovers for the year,” Shaw said.

And BCC made shots in key possessions.

“Since the first game (of the season), we had been defending at a high level,” Shaw said, “but he we haven’t been making shots to win ballgames. We shot 39 percent (against Northwest), which is still not the greatest—but we held them to 32 percent.”

BCC also connected on its 3-pointers, hitting 43 percent (10 of 23). Northwest hit 5 of 23.

BCC played so well at the start that it forced Northwest to call two timeouts.

“About midway through the first half, we never looked back,” Shaw said.

Northwest had a chance to win the game on its final possession.

“They had to go the length of the floor in eight seconds, and we stopped them,” Shaw said.

Entering the season with a new lineup from last season, Shaw expected his team to have a slow start. But this victory showed him of what the team is capable.

“This could be the signature win to get us over the hump,” he said.

The next day BCC played host No. 10 Chipola and lost 73-69.

“They very rarely lose at home,” Shaw said. “They jumped on us and we fought back all the way. It was a one-point game with about 10 seconds to go.”

Against Northwest, sophomore guard Alan-Michael Thompson played all 40 minutes and scored 15 points. Smith scored 14 points and Devon Atkinson 12. Freshman power forward Steve Johnson scored 12 points and had seven rebounds. Terneil Rhodes scored seven points and Allen Hauser five.

Against Chipola, Smith scored 19 points, Thompson 17, Rhodes 14 and Lattrell Royster nine. Atkinson scored five points, Johnson three and Mike Coger two.

Shaw said Coger, a 6-foot-9 sophomore, was a key player in how well BCC played in the two games against taller opponents.

“Defensively against these bigger teams,” Shaw said, “he really allowed us to fight inside.”

Now BCC has something on which to build for the rest of the season.

“I’m proud of them,” Shaw said. “They went down there and represented the college well in how in they acted the entire trip.”