ATLANTA — The historic season for the Claflin University men’s basketball team came to a close on Sunday with an 89-64 loss to Barry University in the 2018 NCAA DII South Regional Semifinal at Forbes Arena on the campus of Morehouse College.
The Panthers finished the 2017-18 season with a 26-7 record and the program's first SIAC Championship title.
The 26 wins are the most in the program’s history since joining the NCAA DII ranks in the 2008-09 season. The previous high was 25 wins, during the 2008-09 season.
But trailing by 30 points at halftime, 56-26, was an uphill battle Claflin couldn't win in the second half on Sunday.
Senior guard Benjamin “Tre” Williams scored 11 of his team-high 17 points in the first half to lead Claflin. Senior center Jaleel Charles scored 16 points, including 14 in the second half, to go along with five rebounds. Tondric Johnson came off the bench to contribute five points with six rebounds for the Panthers.
Sawyer Glick led all scorers with 22 points, including 18 points from behind the arc. Daniel Mortensen dropped in 15 points and seven rebounds, while Marko Tomic scored 12 and Evan Walshe dropped in 11 for Barry.
As a team, Barry shot 46.7 percent from three-point range (64.7 percent in the first half), making 14 of the 30 treys they attempted, while holding Claflin to 10 percent for the game (2-of-20).
“Congrats to Barry and its play tonight,” Claflin head coach Ricky Jackson said. “We’ve seen a team like this before in Clark Atlanta, earlier in the season, when they just came out blistering hot, draining threes.
"Not to take anything away from Barry or making excuses, but the injuries and the schedule over the last 10 days has made it tough on us. Around the 3, 4, 5-minute mark of yesterday’s (Saturday’s) game I looked at my team and I kind of felt like we were going to hit that wall."
Jackson could take away the positives from the strongest postseason finish in the D-II ranks for the Panthers program.
“My hats off to my crew as well, we made history at Claflin and we had great ride, and I’m proud of my guys," Jackson said. "No one wants to lose, but for me and my guys, even with this loss I’m proud of them.”
Claflin opened the second half with a 6-0 run to cut the deficit to 24, 56-32. The Panthers managed to cut the lead to 21, 63-42, but the hot three-point shooting continued for Barry as Elvar Fridriksson drained a three-pointer to push the lead back to 24, 66-42, with 13:36 remaining in the contest.
After Claflin scored two straight baskets, the Bucs scored 13 straight points to take its biggest lead of the contest, 31 points (79-48).
Barry maintained at least a 30-point lead until late in the half, when Claflin scored 4 of the final 6 points of the game.
The opening period belonged solely to Barry.
Claflin began the game very sluggish, going down by 12 points, 20-8, at the 11:56 mark of the first half.
Barry increased its lead to 19 (33-14) with 7:37 remaining.
The Bucs pushed their lead to 27, 47-20, before owning the 30-point lead at intermission.