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Second half surge propels Senators past Caldwell, 99-77

Second half surge propels Senators past Caldwell, 99-77

MORRISTOWN, Tenn. — Rest assured, youth won't be an excuse this season.


Walters State rallied in the second half and suffocated Caldwell's defense in the second half for a 99-77 win over the Cobras to open the season in the Senators Tip-Off Classic on Friday night.


The Senators (1-0) fell behind 42-34 at intermission but caught fire from the floor in the second half, hitting 71 percent (22-of-31) of their field goals while knocking down 6-of-7 shots from downtown after a 2-of-9 clip from deep in the opening 20 minutes.


Miles Thomas, Walters State's lone returning starter and one of just two sophomores on the roster, led the way with 24 points as five Senators scored in double figures.


Demontay Dixon poured in 22 followed by Kajuan Hale with 20 — all in the second half — Deontae Davis with 13 and Paris Taylor with 11.


"I was really proud of the effort in the second half. They came back and did a really good job," Walters State coach Bill Carlyle said. "Any win is a good win. If you're down eight, and come back against a good team, you have to feel good about it."


Dixon finished just two rebounds shy of a double-double and led WSCC with 6 defensive boards, and Thomas closely followed with 7 while Khiry Shelton, Kobe Powell and Taylor grabbed 5 each.


Thomas and Hale led the Senators in assists with 5 apiece.


Hale's 3-pointer gave the Senators the lead at 46-44 with 16:42 to play, their first since 5-4, and they never trailed the remainder of the game.


Dixon buried a 3-pointer and a fallaway to spark a 9-0 run with Powell following up a Hale basket by converting a steal into a bucket for a 59-46 lead.


Jonathon Warren's 3-pointer pulled Caldwell (0-1) within single digits for the last time at 68-59, but Taylor quickly answered with a one-handed slam.


Thomas ignited what became a 17-6 Walters State run with a 3-pointer from the left wing, and Davis busted a pair of 3-pointers before Thomas threw down a two-handed flush for an 88-67 cushion.


Hale hit from the top of the key for Walters State's eighth triple of the game to build a 93-69 advantage.


Anderson Keller drilled a 3-pointer and finished a layup before Lacey Gathings gave Caldwell its largest lead at 35-23 with 7:05 until halftime.


But Walters State began to take away the middle and held the Cobras to just nine points for a stretch of nearly 13 minutes, taking a 50-44 lead in the process.


"What you've got to do is take that middle out, I thought that was the key. We're not there, but we did a much better job," Carlyle said. "We have a long ways to go, but there were some great encouraging moments there."


Gathings led Caldwell with 17 points while Warren tossed in 11 and Keller added 10.


Walters State will play Combine Academy in the Walters State Senators Tip-Off Classic finale at 7 p.m. on Saturday.