BY JOHN DUBOIS
Led by 19 points from Malik Albert and 14 points from Fred Mattison, the Mott Community College Bears got their second consecutive win after losing their first game at the NJCAA Men’s Division II National Basketball Tournament and secured a spot in the consolation championship game with a 65-52 win over the Phoenix Bears.
“That opening game loss hurt us real bad, but we have had to look past and have fought for what we can get,” Mattison said. “We went out today and fought like it was our last game because we knew it was win or go home. Always fun to win any game, and we did what we needed to do to get the win.”
Mott is coached by NJCAA Hall of Famer Steve Schmidt who earlier this season won his 600th game with the Bears.
“We got down a little bit in this game which started to remind me of the first game,” Schmidt said. “We have been able to beat two outstanding teams in the consolation bracket and with the win today, we get to play four games here total which is a good experience for our players. I love competing against good programs and we have had the chance to do that.
“The consolation bracket has been a good experience for our team and for myself as a coach. It is a tough day in Danville and tough only because we aren’t playing for the national title, but it is still better than a good day back home wishing that we were here.”
Chavis Mattison added 10 points for Mott.
The loss ends the season for the Bears, who finish with a record of 21-14. Phoenix was led by 17 points from Chris Solomon with Chris Mason adding 13 points.
“Mott is a really good, disciplined, and athletic team,” said Phoenix coach Matt Gordon. “They play hard and they have won all those national titles for a reason. We were feeling pretty good at the end of the first half, but they did a better job defensively in the second half and took away what we were trying to do on offense.”
Phoenix got out to an early 6-2 lead and led 22-12 with just under seven minutes to go in the first half. Mott would close out the half on a 15-4 run and took a 27-26 lead into half time. Mott would lead 47-42 with just over 11 minutes to go and then went on a 14-0 run which essentially put the game away.
“Malik Albert continued to redeem himself and he has grown up a lot here in Danville,” Schmidt said. “Coach Gordon knows what he is doing and Solomon is a very good offensive player. Solomon did get some points, but a lot of them came on free throws (8-for-8) and Kory Billups was an unsung hero for us for the defense he played on him.
“We were able to hold them for over 10 minutes without a basket, and basketball really is all about defense. We let an opportunity slip away when we lost the first game, but we have gained a lot by having a chance to play in the consolation bracket and we will have the chance to be one of only four teams at our level to win their last game.”
The Bears will face the Louisburg Hurricanes for the consolation championship at noon today.