NORTH CHARLESTON, SC ? East Tennessee State claimed the championship of the 2003 Mountain Dew Southern Conference Men?s Basketball Tournament with a 97-90 win over Chattanooga Saturday evening at the North Charleston Coliseum.
The win gives the Buccaneers the Southern Conference?s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Tim Smith, the tournament?s Most Outstanding Player, led East Tennessee State (20-10) with 25 points. Smith was one of six Bucs to score in double figures.
Ashley Champion and Jason Rogan each scored 27 points for Chattanooga (21-9).
ETSU took a 48-40 halftime lead but Chattanooga raced back in the second half to tie the game at 59 on a dunk by Rogan with 14:53 left. The game was tied for the last time at 66 with 10:19 left. UTC had a chance to take the lead after Champion made the first of two free throws to tie the game but missed the second.
The Bucs then went on a 7-0 run, taking advantage of two Chattanooga turnovers, to lead 73-66 with 9:21 left. ETSU stretched its lead to as many as 11 points at 83-72 with 6:13 to play on a Brad Nuckles conventional three-point play.
Chattanooga cut the lead to three at 93-90 as Champion hit a three-pointer from the right win with 25 seconds left. ETSU?s Ryan Lawson made four straight free throws inside the final 23 seconds to seal the win.
Quotes from ETSU head coach Ed DeChellis:
?It?s been a long, tough road and it?s great to be here. It?s been a tough season and we?re glad that we could come in here and win this. UTC is a very tough team. We?ve got young kids who love to play hard and win. Tim (Smith) is a phenomenal player who works so hard and I love to see those guys come out with a win.
Ryan Lawson: ?I can?t explain how great this feels. It?s unbelievable. These guys all did what they had to do. We didn?t come to lose and we?re still not ready to go home. Our team effort was unreal and I give it to our freshmen especially who pulled this team together.?
UTC?s Jeff Lebo:
?It was a heck of a basketball game. They had a great tournament. We wish them luck. I?m proud of my team and what they accomplished. We fell short of our dream but I?m still very proud of my guys.
?Of all the years I?ve been coaching, this is the most overachieving group I?ve had. The one thing about this season we really didn?t get a lot of credit. They tried as hard as they could and anyone of these guys can play for me anyday.
UTC?s Jason Rogan: ?I though we had a chance to really win but noone expected us to get this far. They made the key plays and we didn?t.
Most Outstanding Player: Tim Smith, East Tennessee State
All-Tournament First Team:
Radee Skipworth, VMI
Ashley Champion, Chattanooga
Jason Rogan, Chattanooga
Zakee Wadood, East Tennessee State
Tim Smith, East Tennessee State
Mike Benton, College of Charleston
Shawn Hall, Appalachian State
Julius Jenkins, Georgia Southern
Tim Parker, Chattanooga
Jerald Fields, East Tennessee State