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Posted by The Charlotte Post on Monday, March 7, 2016
Blue Bears storm to semifinals
Livingstone romps by St. Aug's to final four
Published Friday, March 1, 2013 7:14 am
by Bianca Warren

Livingstone showed why it is the Southern Division champion in the CIAA Tournament quarterfinals on Thursday.

The Blue Bears buried Saint Augustine’s with a barrage of three-pointers in a 95-70 runaway victory at Time Warner Cable Arena. They turned what was expected to be a competitive game into a rout by the second half as they advanced to Friday’s semifinal round.

Led by guards Mark Thomas and Jody Hill, the Blue Bears (21-5) clawed the Falcons with their long distance shooting. They finished off their opponent with their quickness in the passing lanes which caused 25 St. Aug turnovers that led to 37 points.

It was a complete victory by the Blue Bears, who won their seventh consecutive contest. The win enhanced their chances of making the Division II tournament after the latest regional ranking has the Blue Bears sixth.

Thomas finished with 25 points and Jody Hill added 18 points for the Blue Bears, the No.  1 seed in the Southern Division. Led by the backcourt duo, the Blue Bears were an astonishing 11-for-16 for 69 percent behind the three-point arc. Most of the long range damage was done by Thomas and Hill, who each made 4 of 6 behind the arc.

“I did not know that we would shoot the ball as well as we did tonight in this arena,” Livingstone Head Coach James Stinson said. “I don’t think they knew it either. The question was asked, ‘did I teach them how to shoot?’. No, that wasn’t it. They did a good job of executing and taking care of the ball in the first half. In the second half, we just kind of got into a rhythm and just kind of kept it open a little bit so the guys could really work on their execution.”

Both guards set the tone early against the Falcons (16-12 overall), the No. 4 Southern Division seed. Thomas hit the first three-pointer with four minutes elapsed for a 6-5 lead. He drilled his second consecutive three and Hill later swished a trey for a 14-9 Blue Bears lead.

Percy Woods, who led St. Aug with 24 points, made a three to cut the deficit to 16-14 but the Blue Bears had warmed up by then. Two treys each by Thomas and Hill helped the Blue Bears open a 32-19 lead, and the Blue Bears never looked back.

By halftime, the Blue Bears were up 47-32. They made 9 of 11 threes in the first half.

“I have confidence in their shooting, but in the first half, we were 9-of-11 from the three-point line,” Stinson said in the postgame press conference. “That was a surprise. When this young man to my right [junior guard
Mark Thomas] gets it going, he’s pretty consistent. I don’t want to harp on three-point shooting. That’s not going to win this tournament. We’re going to have to have some inside presence and that person for us is Tyler Johnson.”

The Falcons never overcame the shooting exhibition displayed by the Blue Bears. They were out of sync offensively, turning the ball over 13 times in the first half which led to 24 Livingstone points. After falling behind by double digits, the Falcons never mounted a run to make the game close.

The Blue Bears continued their torrid shooting in the second half. They canned their first several shots as the lead ballooned to 59-37 in the first three minutes. The margin seldom dipped below 20 points as the Blue Bears cruised to a surprisingly easy victory. Both teams split during the regular season.

But the Blue Bears surged late in the season while the Falcons sputtered down the stretch. The Falcons, leading the Southern Division by two games at one point, lost their final five regular-season games. They entered the quarterfinal round with momentum after looking impressive in a four-point win over Virginia State, but simply ran into a hot-shooting Livingstone squad.

I’ve got to give Livingstone a lot of credit,” St. Aug coach Lonnie Blow, Jr. said. “They shot the ball extremely well. They were ready to play and they played at a high level pretty much the whole game, so you’ve got to give them credit. Obviously, we didn’t play well at all. We didn’t have a lot of energy tonight like we did last night. Those things happen.”

Ethan Anderson added 14 points and Tyler Johnson scored 13 for the Blue Bears, who shot 49 percent overall and made 26 of 35 free-throw attempts for 74 percent. Chris Johnson added 11 points for the Falcons, who were 8 of 24 from three-point land for 33 percent.


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