The Spring Hill College men's basketball team kept their conference playoff hopes alive with a 68-59 win versus Belhaven University at the Arthur R. Outlaw Recreation Center on Thursday night.
Spring Hill clung to a slim 31-28 advantage over the Blazers (14-15, 9-9 SSAC) at halftime and the second half continued to be a dogfight as the Badgers built out a 9-point lead at 44-35 with 15:22 on the clock only to see Belhaven cut it to just a 4-point lead at 44-40 at the 13:24 mark.
At 7:46, a fast break bucket by off a steal by senior point guard Stephen Burches of Hammond, La., made it an 11-point Badger lead at 55-44, but the Blazers once again rallied and tied the game at 55 off a Datodrick Pinkston basket with 4:30 remaining.
Then, with under a minute to play and the Badgers up by just two points, freshman center Jake Thelen of Edgewood, Ky., took over on the inside and stretched the lead to 64-57 by converting on two high-percentage shots off the glass. Four free throws by sophomore forward Alex Looney from Mobile's Murphy High School and two more freebies by senior guard Tyler Schwab of Panama City, Fla., iced the victory down the stretch for Spring Hill.
Thelen scored 25 points for SHC while Looney added 12 points with 11 rebounds and sophomore Todd Martin of Mobile put in 10 points.
The Badgers shot 47.1% (24-51) overall, but were just 16.7% (2-12) in 3-pointers while tuning the ball over 15 times and winning the rebounding battle 36-32.
Woodie Howard led the Blazers with 18 points and nine rebounds as BU shot 35.7% (20-56) from the field and 23.5% (4-17) from 3-point range.
Spring Hill (13-12, 7-10 SSAC) will wrap up the 2011-12 regular season at William Carey University (12-17, 8-9 SSAC) in Hattiesburg, Miss., at 7 p.m. on Saturday. By virtue of Spring Hill's edge in the conference's tie-breaker rules, the winner of this game will advance to the conference tournament in Rome, Ga., beginning on Wednesday, February 29, with the loser being eliminated from post-season play.