Strong start helps Bears down East Central at home

Published 2:37 pm Friday, January 28, 2022

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The start to Thursday’s home game played a huge role for the Bears as they had to contend with a tough East Central team down the stretch, before pulling out a 93-84 win.

SMCC (12-6, 5-4) hit 11 3-pointers in the first half, setting the tone for a night where the Bears scored at least 90 points for the sixth time this season and for the first time in two weeks.

“We constantly got into the paint, constantly made the right plays, we drove and kicked and that was literally the game plan offensively,” SMCC head coach Bryan Bender said. “We didn’t know what defense they would play whether it was zone or man (on man), they play different styles.”

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It didn’t take long for the Bears to start finding success offensively. The first three makes were all 3-pointers with Joe Holloway providing the first two before Quez Fountain joined the fray. A little over two minutes later, Zach Shugars connected on his first of the evening giving the hosts a 13-9 advantage.

“We just wanted to start fast, we had a size advantage,so we thought coming into the game that we were going to get it inside the paint. But we were getting it in the paint and the 3’s were falling on the drive and kick. It is just a testament on how hard we practice,” said Shugars who finished with a team-high 19 points.

The long range success for the Bears carried on in the first half as Jamil Bowles hit back-to-back 3’s with the latter putting SMCC up 24-17. Despite the success offensively, the defense had some difficulty slowing down a talented East Central bunch, who kept pace with the hosts, preventing them from extending their lead.

Around the 4:00 mark, Shugars connected on the 10th 3-pointer of the half for the Bears, increasing their lead to 45-35.

After leading 52-43 at the intermission, the Bears once again took a double digit lead and maintained it for the most of the second half. With just under 5:00 to go in the game, Shugars hit the 14th and final 3-pointer on the night for the Bears, making it a 78-68 game.

Despite the Warriors putting up a fight, the Bears stayed one step ahead before sealing the win late.

In addition to Shugars’ big night, the Bears also got double-digit scoring from four other players. Bowles recorded 17 points while Javius Moore had 13 points and both Fountain and Demarcus Ellzey finished with 10.

As a team, the Bears shot 15-of-17 from the free throw line.

Next up for SMCC is a road contest Monday in Utica against Hinds.