CMU Men Eliminate Benedictine from HAAC Tournament

Posted: Mar 1, 2013 7:07 AM

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FAYETTE, MO - Central Methodist's Melvin Tillman and Elliott Black combined for 43 points Thursday in an 81-69 Heart of America Athletic Conference Men's Basketball Tournament Quarterfinal win over Benedictine (Kan.).

The Eagles (19-12), the four-seed in the conference tournament, advance to the Semifinals to face top-seed Evangel (Mo.) on Saturday. The Green and Black split a pair of games with the Crusaders during the regular season, with the road team winning each contest. Central Methodist defeated then-ranked No. 21 Evangel 59-56 on Nov. 29, 2012. The Crusaders are currently ranked ninth in NAIA Division I.

The Eagles jumped out to a 7-2 lead three minutes into the game with four points by Black. The Ravens (18-12), who entered as the five-seed in the HAAC Tournament, answered with a 12-2 run over the next six minutes, sparked by six from T.J. Stevens, but the Green and Black tied the game at 14-all following a Tillman trey.

The teams traded leads four times over the next eight minutes. Derek Kitch found the bottom of the net on an inbounds pass from Robert Mason to put the Green and Black up 21-19 with under five minutes in the half. Tillman then buried a deep three on the next possession to increase the margin to five.

Benedictine responded, as Jallen Messersmith regained the lead for the visitors, 25-24, with a two-pointer in the paint. Charlie Wallrapp made a running jumper in the paint as time expired to make the score 29-26 at the break.

The Ravens' Brett Fisher and Tillman traded threes in the first 3:30 of the second period, tying the game at 35. Eric Franklin then picked up a loose ball and found Tillman from the top of the arc to put Central Methodist ahead, 38-37.

The Eagles then began to take control. The last three matchups between the two teams had come down to the last shot in regulation, but the Green and Black asserted themselves in the second half Thursday, eventually increasing their advantage to seven, 48-41, following a trey by Mason. A Stevens' conventional three-point play cut the visitor's deficit to 52-47 at the midpoint of the half.

Kitch hit his fourth bucket of the game four minutes later to make the score 58-52. Mason answered a Shawn Fleming, Jr. bucket from distance at the 5:50 mark, giving the Eagles a 61-55 upper hand.

The Ravens would not go away, as Fleming, Jr. canned a 25-foot trey to trim their team's deficit to one possession, 63-60, but Alex Barner answered with a three before Kitch drew a charge with 4:10 left. Tillman followed up with a trey, giving the home team a nine-point edge, 69-60.

Benedictine responded with five quick points, as Fleming, Jr. hit his third three in the second half at the 2:48 mark. However, the Ravens could get no closer. Franklin made two free throws with two minutes to play that gave the Eagles a double-digit cushion.

Black, Barner Franklin, Kitch and Mason, playing in their final game in Puckett Fieldhouse, saved their best for last, doing most the damage for Central Methodist. The five accounted for 66.7 percent (54 of 81) of the team's scoring, 18 of 22 made free throws and 20 of 32 total rebounds.

Tillman tallied a game-high 25 points, his second highest total of the season. The All-HAAC first team pick was 9-of-15 from the field, 5-of-7 from distance and 2-of-2 from the free throw line.

Black, who went for a career-high 34 points when the two teams squared off Feb. 16, totaled 18 on Thursday on 5-of-9 shooting and eight made free throws (8-of-11).

Mason chipped in 10 points. Franklin and Barner each had nine. Kitch tallied eight.

Stevens led all Benedictine scorers with 18 points on 6-of-9 shooting from the floor and four made free throws. Fleming, Jr. added 17 points after going 7-of-11 from the field and 3-of-5 from behind the arc in the final 20 minutes. Fisher and Wallrapp each had nine points.

Both teams shot 50 percent overall and better than 47 percent from behind the arc, but the Eagles were 22-of-27 from the free throw line compared to the Ravens being only 9-of-15. The 81 points was the third highest total allowed by the HAAC's top-ranked defense this season.

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