By DOUG EADS
OAKLAND CITY, INDIANA – Both Campbellsville-Somerset and Campbellsville-Harrodsburg came into the 2018-’19 season with brand new programs, with each squad playing its inaugural year of collegiate basketball.
So, maybe it was only fitting the two satellite teams from Campbellsville University would meet each other in what would be the final game for each club in their first season of college hoops.
The two Tigers clubs met on Saturday night for third place in the CCNIT Basketball Tournament at Oakland City University, and when all was said and done, it was CU-Somerset surviving in a thriller, holding back CU-Harrodsburg in overtime by a final score of 88-81.
“I was proud of the kids, because you have a 20-point lead in the first half, and your opponent comes back and takes you into overtime, and I think that shows where we’re at now as a program,” stated a very happy coach Al Gover, after his club’s season ended with the victory.
“At the first of the year, or even at mid-season, we would not have won this game,” Gover continued. “The kids have matured, they’ve grown up, and they’re learning how to win. That’s what carried them through tonight, because they took care of business in overtime.”
Taking care of business is exactly what CU-Somerset did from the opening tap, taking things right at the Tigers from Campbellsville-Harrodsburg.
CU-Somerset – thanks to some hot shooting early on – gradually built a 21-point lead in the first half of play — with CU-Harrodsburg trimming that deficit down to 10 points by the intermission, trailing Gover and crew 42-32.
In the second half, the game stayed within a 10 to 14-point margin throughout much of the second half, until CU-Harrodsburg put forth a late rally in regulation.
Behind the play of Antoine Darby – who scored 21 of his game-high 25 points after the intermission — it was the Harrodsburg Tigers roaring all the way back.
CU-Somerset’s Michael Hampton scored a big-time basket with his club leading 74-73, easing the advantage out to 76-73 with just over a minute left in regulation, but Harrodsburg would fight back.
A three-point basket by Tyrese Duncan knotted the score up for the first time of the day at 76-76 with less than a minute left to play.
After CU-Somerset came up blank on the next possession down the floor, CU-Harrodsburg had a chance to win it in regulation,but two point-blank shots came up empty, sending the game into the extra session.
There would not have been an overtime period had it not been for Gover’s bench, who played great in the win.
In fact, the CU-Somerset reserves played arguably –as a group – their best game of the season, scoring a combined 41 points in the game – a fact that did not go unnoticed by the head coach afterwards.
“Our bench played great tonight, and with our second group out there, their defense was pretty dang good,” pointed out Gover.
“You know you’ve got kids like Michael (Hampton) that took three charges in the first half, and man, they stepped up in this game,and I couldn’t be more proud of them,” Gover remarked. “Being a first-year team, to see how our kids have grown and how far they’ve come this year, it’s just real special.”
In the extra period, after a hoop by CU-Somerset, CU-Harrodsburg scored back to back baskets, taking their first lead of the game at 80-78.
However, the Somerset Tigers were not going to be denied on this final day of the season.
Keelan Kennedy scored six of his team-high 18 points in the extra period, helping Gover’s club end the extra session on a 9-1 spurt, after falling behind early in the overtime period by that 80-78 score.
With the win, CU-Somerset finished its inaugural campaign with an overall record of 8-19.
However, after beginning the year with an 0-13 mark,CU-Somerset was a much different team over the second half of the season,posting an 8-6 record, and a third place finish in a national tourney – the CCNIT Basketball Tournament.
“My emotions kind of came out with the team after the game,” stated a very jubilant coach Gover.
“It’s been a long year, and it’s been a grind,” added the CU-Somerset coach. “We’ve battled every day in practice, and we’ve worked and worked. You have to have discipline and respect for the game and those kind of things, and our kids have really grown up this season and learned that. They grew up in front of our very eyes.”
Kennedy led CU-Somerset with 18 points, and he was one of five Tiger players to hit for double figures in the win.
Daniel Coldiron hit three treys to score 13 points, Titus Ransom added 11 points, while A.J. Thomas and Hampton each added 10 points.
Ransom was the lone player from CU-Somerset that was named to the tourney’s All-Tournament Team.