Barons score decisive win over ranked foe, win own tournament

By Terry Gaston

MOUNT VERNON -- After watching his team hold on for a victory Friday night after leading by 14 points, Brewton-Parker College men's basketball coach Steve Barker was wondering if the Barons had the ability to finish off an opponent.

On Saturday night, Barker got his answer when the Barons built a 27-point halftime lead and turned back an early second-half rally by nationally ranked Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University to win the Brewton-Parker Christmas Shootout at the Student Activities Center.

With the 81-62 win, the Barons avenged a 78-73 loss to Embry-Riddle at the Eagles' Mitsubishi Classic in Daytona Beach, Fla., on Nov. 23.

The Barons advanced to the championship game with their 74-72 win Friday night over Claflin University (S.C.), a victory that came after Brewton-Parker held on after leading 40-26 with 16:20 left in the game.

Claflin pulled to within one at 63-62 with about three minutes left and had possession with the opportunity to take the lead and erase its earlier 14-point deficit before the Barons answered with a 7-0 run and kept the Tigers at least two points down the rest of the way.

Senior guards Gabe Bubon and Derrick Hairston were both All-Tournament selections, with Bubon selected as Most Valuable Player, and the tandem ignited the Barons both nights.

Hairston led the Barons' 56.3 percent shooting effort against Claflin by hitting 8 of 13 shots, including 3 of 6 from 3-point range, to finish with a team-high 20 points.

Bubon also hit three treys in scoring 19 points, and he shared game-high rebounding honors with sophomore post Bryan Jett with each snaring nine boards.

Sophomore guard Tre Hill had a game-high eight assists to go with his 14 points.

Senior guard Travarus Mack and junior post Cory Evans led Claflin with 24 points apiece.

"I thought our seniors, Derrick Hairston and Gabe Bubon, got us off to a great start," Barker said. "We just do not know how to put people away."

The Barons did such Saturday night, however, withstanding Embry-Riddle's 25-12 run to open the second half that pulled the Eagles to within 13 at 59-46 with about nine minutes remaining.

Freshman guard Barry Robinson, who scored 10 points in sharing the point role with Hill, scored off a Hairston steal and then scored on a breakaway basket to put the Barons back up by 17.

Embry-Riddle, which was ranked No. 12 in NAIA Division II last week, got only as close as 14 in the final seven minutes before Brewton-Parker built as large as a 22-point advantage (80-58 with 53 seconds left).

"That was probably one of the biggest wins I've had here at Brewton-Parker," said Barker, whose team again shot well with 53.4 percent success from the floor. The hardest part after making a huge run in the first half was to keep focused and play with some intensity.

"We had a mental letdown but we called a timeout and got going again. We were so balanced in scoring. Our ability to break the press was a big factor."

Hairston and Bubon shared team-leading scoring honors with 18 points apiece, and Jett matched Robinson's 10 points while blocking five shots. Hill had nine more assists.

Senior post Chinwuba Agba had a game-high 20 points for the Eagles and senior guard Harold Pierson added 17 as both players were named All-Tournament.

Embry-Riddle advanced to the championship game with a 66-63 win Friday over Spring Hill College (Ala.), which was ranked No. 6 in NAIA Division I last week. The Badgers rebounded from their first loss with a 63-45 win over Claflin in Saturday's consolation final.

The Barons (6-6) return from the semester break when they play in the Georgia Southwestern State University Holiday Classic on Jan. 3-4 in Americus. They play William Carey College (Miss.) at 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 3 and Tennessee Temple University at 6 p.m. on Jan. 4.

"I told the guys a week ago that we needed to be 6-6 at the break, with conference play staring after the Georgia Southwestern Classic," Barker said. "Some of the guys were saying it almost makes them sick because we could easily be 10-2."

The Barons open Georgia-Alabama-Carolina Conference play with two road games Jan. 9 and 11 and open a three-game conference home stand Jan. 13.

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Members of the Brewton-Parker College Barons basketball team raise the trophy representing their championship-game victory Saturday night in the BPC Christmas Shootout at the Student Activities Center on the campus in Mount Vernon. The Barons defeated Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University 81-62 to win the championship, and senior guard Gabe Bubon (right) was named Most Valuable Player.