Barons in hunt for conference lead after 3 straight victories

By Terry Gaston

MOUNT VERNON - Last weekend began with all 10 Georgia-Alabama-Carolina Conference men's basketball teams one game away from completing their first rotation through the conference schedule.

After some upsets over the weekend, the Brewton-Parker College Barons entered their GACC game Monday night at Georgia Southwestern State University in Americus with a chance to earn a tie for first place. The game finished the Barons' first run through the GACC slate and was the first of three conference games this week.

Despite being idle since their 76-70 win Jan. 27 at home over Emmanuel College, however, the Barons moved to within a half-game of first place after Thursday and Saturday's results - which included a pair of two-point losses by NAIA Division I-No. 6 Faulkner University.

Faulkner's losses pulled No. 22 Southern Polytechnic State University - which edged Faulkner 60-58 Thursday at Marietta - into a tie with the 7-2 Eagles, while Brewton-Parker (6-2 GACC before Monday) and Auburn University-Montgomery (6-3 after a Saturday loss to Southern Polytech) began the week within a game of the co-leaders.

"We have to feel good about being in the race," Barons coach Steve Barker said. "How we play our second time around is when we will see what kind of ball team we will be."

After playing at Georgia Southwestern on Monday, the Barons begin the second half of their GACC schedule with a pair of games at the Student Activities Center, Thursday against Shorter College (8-11 overall, 2-7 GACC) at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 4 p.m. vs. Southern Polytech (16-6, 7-2 beginning the week).

"If we can sweep thee three games, that would give us a lot of momentum," said Barker, whose team then travels to Central, S.C., on Monday, Feb. 10, to play Southern Wesleyan University.

"We need to take care of business at home and beat a good team on the road with a split at Faulkner (on March 3) or AUM (on Feb. 13). I think three losses, with a 17-3 record in league play, will be enough to win the league."

In the Barons' win over Emmanuel at the Student Activities Center, senior guard Derrick Hairston led the victory by breaking out of a shooting slump by scoring a game-high 21 points to give Brewton-Parker (13-9 overall) its third straight win.

Hairston's 8-for-13 shooting effort included four 3-point baskets, one of which turned back the visiting Lions after they had cut a 14-point, first-half deficit to 53-52 with 8:55 remaining.

Sophomore post Bryan Jett followed three Emmanuel free throws with a basket for a 55-52 Barons lead, and Hairston followed the Lions' missed 3-point, game-tying attempt with his final 3-point basket with 8:15 left. Emmanuel (5-17, 2-7 GACC after the weekend) got no closer than four the rest of the way.

"Derrick Hairston was the key," said Barker, whose team hit 50 percent of its shots overall and 8 of 19 (42.1 percent) from 3-point range. "He has been struggling lately, but he stepped it up."

Sophomore guard Toms Lokmanis followed Hairston in scoring for Brewton-Parker with 14 points and had a team-high seven rebounds. Jett and sophomore guard Tre Hill added 10 points apiece and Jett also had four blocks.

Junior forward Joey Isaac led Emmanuel and shared game-high scoring honors with Hairston with 21 points.

Brewton-Parker College senior guard Derrick Hairston stretches out to pull in a rebound in the first half of the Barons' 76-70 win Jan. 27over Emmanuel College at the Student Activities Center on the Brewton-Parker campus in Mount Vernon. Hairston had a team-high 12 points in the victory. (Photo by Charles Conkin)