By Chuck Livingston
The Evening Times Sports Editor
MSCC Sports Information
Try as they might, the MSCC Greyhounds were unable to defend their Region 2 tournament title from last season.
North Arkansas led 39-38 at halftime, and despite falling behind in the second half by 3 points on 4 different occasions, took down a 77-67 win at The Dog House that will advance the Pioneers to the next round and send the Greyhounds home.
MSCC took its last lead of the game with 4:10 remaining in regulation, but North Arkansas finished the game on a 13-2 run to avenge their loss in the title game last year on their home floor, as well as a loss exactly 2 weeks ago on Valentine's Day.
The Greyhounds will end their season with a school record of 18 wins against just 10 losses. MSCC also finished 10-4 at The Dog House, losing to Division 1 schools from Jackson State and Southwest Tennessee, as well as tight losses to Arkansas Baptist and North Arkansas on Saturday.
"You practice and hope for the best, but in the end, it's about the team that knocks down the same ol' boring jump shot," said MSCC head coach Chris Parker. "They knocked down just a couple more than we did. It was just that type of game. They're a very solid team, very well-coached and they executed very well."
North Arkansas got 17 points from traditional Greyhound-killer Justin Malott, 14 from Tyler Bussell and 12 from Bronson Hampton.
The Pioneers drilled 29 of their 64 shots from the field, including 8 3-point baskets.
The Greyhounds hit the floor running against North Arkansas for the second straight meeting, leading for most of the first half, until the Pioneers found their range in the latter-stages of the opening 20 minutes.
MSCC limited North Arkansas to a chilly 15 of 35 in the first half, but a 6 of 17 showing from 3-point range kept the Pioneers in the hunt, and allowed them to take that one-point lead with them to the lockers. North Arkansas also reeled in 7 offensive rebounds in the first half, part of a 22-19 advantage on the boards.
In a defensive-minded second half, North Arkansas dug in, forcing MSCC to a palty 9 of 30 from the field. North Arkansas managed a 14 of 29 showing, but kept the door open for the Greyhounds with an 8 of 14 showing from the foul line.
MSCC took its final lead of the game when Harris hit a jump shot with 4:10 left, but the Greyhounds hit some rough foul shooting of their own, making just 2 of 6 down the stretch, as North Arkansas banged home 3 of 4, including some high-percentage shots at the rim in that 13-2 run.
"Dr. (Glen) Fenter and I were talking about it (the North Arkansas series) before the game," explained Parker. "This is the exact same scenario as last year, only reversed. We won the first game here, lost up there, but we were able to win the championship game there."
Despite the loss, Parker was still upbeat about the direction of his program.
"I'm proud of the student-athletes that have come in and helped post a school-record 18 wins," explained Parker. "They've continued to build on the foundation of this program and represented us exceedingly well."
MSCC will lose Justin Harris, Tony White, Shaquille Culbreath, Marquavious Smith and John Braxton to graduation, but could return Kaylon Tappin, Tasmania Jones and Joe Dye in addition to a number of other contributing players.