Playoff run halted in semifinals
Hunter O. Lyle—Sports Editor
In a heated match-up with longtime local rival University of New Haven, with the Owls just one win away from their first conference finals appearance in four years, Southern’s season ended just three miles away from where it started.
In front of a sold out, frenzy of screaming fans, the Owls and the Chargers went head-to-head for a chance to make the finals. Both teams had a chip on their shoulders coming into this game, as UNH swept Southern in the regular season, and Southern won against UNH in the 2013-2014 NE10 finals.
The game started with the Owls struggling to string together made shots, shooting only 12-30 (40 percent) from the field, and only 4-15 (26 percent) from deep.
The Chargers on the other hand, forced to the perimeter by Southern’s solid interior defense, caught fire and made 5 of 9 (55 percent) from beyond the arc, and 15 of 26 (58 percent) from the floor in general. The first half ended with the Chargers in front by 11, 41-30.
“[Our game plan] was to just keep playing team basketball like we have,” said head coach Scott Burrell. “I think [UNH] just played great defense that hurt us a little bit. They’re defense locked us up…we didn’t have great spacing with our shooters.”
Coming out of halftime, the Chargers kept hitting from long distance, but a boost from sophomore guard C.J. Seaforth, who scored 21 points in the final half alone, cut the lead to four with just over four minutes to go. The Owls defense also geared up in the second half, with Seaforth and senior guard Joey Wallace combining for three steals and senior forward Luke Beesley and junior forward Taurus Adams II denying four shots.
“I just tried to lock in on seeing my teammates and my help as much as possible,” said Seaforth. “I tried to do everything I could do try to get that lead down.”
With excessive fouls looming over the team’s head, and senior guard Isaiah McLeod fouling out of the game with two minutes left on the clock, the Chargers lead grew from the free throw line. The Owls season was eventually cut short, with UNH coming out as the victors, 87-66.
“We made a good run, but [UNH] just played good defense,” said Burrell. “With us not being at full strength, it’s just tough to sustain a run. They made the right plays, made the right stops, got the right rebounds today. They just played a great 40-minute game, a tough 40-minute game.”
With a chance to still make the NCAA DII Tournament, Burrell said while he thinks the team has earned a chance to compete, he is not sure that they will be chosen.
“I would love to be in it. If you look at the standings, we beat six out of the eight teams in regional,” said Burrell. “I mean, if we have a chance, I think we deserve it…it’s a long shot but you never know.”
As McLeod’s four-year collegiate career comes to an end, one filled with accolades and records, he said he looks back at his years at Southern with love.
“It was amazing. I made a lot of family members, I consider them now,” said McLeod. “Throughout all the alumni’s that played with us, through the friends that don’t play sports. Just everything has just been an amazing experience for me.”
Photo Credit: William Aliou
*Edited to change title and add in and edit feature photo.