by Michael D. Gunnell
Southwest Sports Information
The ball finally bounced the Bears' way Monday night in Meridian as they edged the home standing Meridian Eagles 72-69 in MACJC South Division play. Lincoln Smith jumper gave the Bears (11-7, 3-6) their only lead of the first half, 8-7, with 15:34 on the clock. Meridian then quickly regained the lead, 10-8, at the 15:10 mark.
The teams then traded baskets for the next 10 plus minutes before Meridian (7-10, 2-7) put together a 10-2 run to take a 25-17 lead with 4:12 left before halftime.
Regaining their composure, the Bears scored eight straight to tie the game at 25-25 on a Jalon Andrews dunk with 1:00 on the clock. A pair of Damian Dear free throws and his long-range bomb then sent the Bears into intermission with a 30-26 advantage.
A free throw from Roderick Smith early in the second half put the Bears on top 34-29. The teams then traded baskets, and the lead, for 2:00 before Meridian outscored the Bears 15-8 to move ahead 53-45.
The Bears refused to give in, however, as they went on a 9-0 run and took a 54-53 lead on Andrews' jumper with 8:06 still to play. Meridian then responded with a 9-2 run to move back on top, 63-56, with 5:04 on the clock.
Less than 2:00 later, Dear's jumper knotted the score at 63-63. The next 1:56 saw the lead change hands five times before the Bears went back on top for good, 70-69, on a layup from Dear with 0:26 on the clock.
A pair of Bob Boyd free throws with 0:02 showing gave the Bears what proved to be the winning margin, but the victory was not secure until a Meridian three pointer at the buzzer failed to find the mark.
"Our guys continue to fight day in and day out," said Bears head coach Bryan Bender. "Everyone got on the board tonight and guys made big plays down the stretch to secure a win."
"Robert Kendrick hit huge (three pointers), Bob got a huge rebound and free throws down the stretch and Damian's huge steal and layup gave us the go ahead. We are now in control of our destiny for that fourth and final playoff spot. Our guys are hungry and we are ready to take on the top half of the league over the next three-four games."
Dear scored 16 points to lead the Bears' offense. Lincoln Smith and Roderick Smith both scored 11 points while Andrews netted 10. The Bears went 17-22 at the free throw line.
Alex Oguinn and Keontae Trotter both scored 16 points to pace Meridian. The home team hit 16 of 22 free throws.
The Bears travel to Perkinston Thursday night for their next game as they face the Mississippi Gulf Coast Bulldogs in MACJC South Division play. Game time is set for 7:30.