On senior day, the UAH Chargers Men’s Basketball team used an outstanding second half performance to conclude their 2019 home schedule with a defeat of the Christian Brothers Buccaneers, and to move past the very same Bucs into locking up possession of third place in the Gulf South Conference.
The first half was as tightly contested as the conference identical records suggested it would be, with the Buccaneers, led by 6-9 forward Adam Dieball, one of the best big men in the country, setting the tempo and building a 8 point lead with 11 minutes left in the half.
The Chargers, with a depth advantage off the bench, were able to fight back, and with Seth Swalve’s buzzer beating three, take a 38-37 lead into halftime.
The Buccaneers, not helped by their lesser depth, and flustered by UAH’s adaptation of a zone defense, came out of the break playing sloppily and shooting poorly. UAH capitalized and went on a nearly 10-minute stretch in which they held CBU scoreless and stretched the lead to 71-47.
This deficit proved insurmountable for the Bucs, who continued to shoot poorly, finishing with a second half field goal percentage of 24%- and three-point percentage of 16.66%. This is in sharp contrast to UAH’S 58% from behind the arc, and 68% overall.
As redshirt seniors on senior day, Tanner Finley and Elijiah Garrison got well-deserved starts, but made rather limited impact, as Garrison scored only three points in 7 minutes, and Finley only two points: a steep drop-off from his season best 25 points in the preceding game against Montevallo.
The best performance of the day belonged to redshirt sophomore Seth Swalve, whose 26 points on 64% shooting, stands as the highest total of the season for him. He was closely trailed by fellow sophomore Sam Orf, who managed 20 points on 58% from the field. JJ Kaplan again led the Chargers in rebounds, bringing down 7 total, and playing solid defense.
On CBU’s side, their leading scorer Joe Lavarie was held to only 5 points, despite playing 28 minutes. Likewise, Adam Dieball was held in check for all but the first ten minutes, in which he played well enough to tally up 19 points in the matchup. The rest of the line-up also greatly struggled to shoot the ball.
As many match-ups within two weeks of March do, this game had heavy stakes. By winning their 21st game of the seasoned, the Chargers locked themselves into being the third seed in the GSC tournament. Having only 6 losses, they continued to put themselves in prime position for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. There are still several important games to play before that possibility arises.
UAH concludes the regular season on the road against West Georgia, on Thursday the 28th, and will then begin preparations for the GSC tournament starting March 5th, the first round which will be hosted here on campus. If the Chargers advance onwards, they would head to Birmingham for the Seimifinals on March 9th, and then potentially the finals in West Florida .
While shooting over 50% from behind the arc is far from feasible, if the Chargers continue to compete as they have, they certainly have a fighting chance to still be playing Basketball late into March.