The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

March 21, 2014

Big shots carry Phoenix past Fort Scott

The Commercial-News

---- — DANVILLE — Great defensive battles like Thursday’s quarterfinal contest between Phoenix College and Fort Scott Community College in the NJCAA Division II National Tournament are almost always decided by someone hitting a big shot.

Phoenix freshman Derreck Brooks was that guy with a pair of 3-pointers in the final minutes as the Bears slipped past the Greyhounds 62-57 at the Mary Miller Gymnasium.

And the biggest one of the two long-ranged shots by Brooks actually came with 3 minutes, 41 second left when he just barely beat the shot clock off of a pass from Phoenix College guard Brandon Brown, who finished with 18 points and a game-high nine assists.

“Brandon, our point guard, got into the paint and they helped on him,’’ Brook said. “I was wide open and it was up to me to hit it.’’

That was the fourth 3-pointer of the game for Brooks, who finished with a game-high 19 points, and he added one more trifecta with 2:07 left giving the Bears (26-8) a 58-54 lead.

“Two or three of them were not contested, so those are the ones that hurt us in the second half,’’ said Fort Scott coach Michael Cook of the four 3-pointers that Brooks made in the second half. “The two in the corner and the shot clock one hurt us too, We stood around and watched a little bit in the last six minutes.

“That’s what happens. Brooks is solid. We still had a chance, but we didn’t execute on the offensive end.’’

The Greyhounds, who fall to 15-17, were just 3-of-8 with a turnover in the final six minutes, seeing their seven-point lead (50-43) evaporate into a five-point loss.

“That was two great defensive teams, fighting and scratching,’’ Cook said “We knew it would be that way. It was going to come down to who hit the big shots to win.

“They hit the two big shots. They are a great team and they finished great. We didn’t finish well.’’

Not only did Brooks hit the big shots, but he also played the final seven minutes with four fouls.

“I didn’t want to put him in so early, but I don’t think we had a choice,’’ said Gordon, whose team was trailing by seven points when he brought his freshman back into the game. “And I’m glad I did. He played smart and he knocked some huge 3s for us. I think that was the difference. If we kept him on the bench, I don’t think we are sitting here in the semifinals.’’

While Brooks hit a big 3-pointer at the shot clock buzzer, Fort Scott’s Dalton Rose was off the mark with a long-ranged shot on the ensuing possession. Rose, who was 3-of-10 behind the arc, finished with 11 points for the Greyhounds.

“I think it’s the momentum,’’ Cook said. “If our shot goes in, the momentum goes right back to us. But, it didn’t happen that way.’’

Will Harrington was the leading scorer for Fort Scott with 17 points, while Prince Samuels had a double-double with 10 points and a game-high 13 rebounds and Kevin House, playing with a leg injury, had 11 points and five assists.

“Their defense was great,’’ Cook said. “I wish we could have kept the lead, but they hit some shots. That’s a testament to what they do.’’

Gordon admitted that the Phoenix College defense on Samuels and House was a big reason for the quarterfinal victory.

“Our whole goal was to limit their looks, keep them out of the paint and I thought, for the most part, we did a good job of that tonight,’’ he said. “When you get here, you don’t know if offense is going to show up or not, so you have to defend.’’

With the victory, the Bears advance to tonight’s 8 p.m. semifinal contest against the Central Community College Raiders, who beat top-seeded Cincinnati State 90-78 on Thursday night.

“It was a dogfight all the way to the end, but I’m so excited that we are moving on to the semifinals,’’ Brooks said.

Fort Scott will now play Cincinnati State at 3 p.m. today, with the winner advancing to the fifth-place game on Saturday.