MORRISTOWN, Tenn. — Walters State moved within a half-game of first place in the Tennessee Community College Athletic Association basketball race by knocking off front-running Motlow State, 82-66, Saturday afternoon at 'Z' Buda Gymnasium.
The Senators got off to a terrible start as they fell behind by 11 in the first half before clawing their way back into the game with most of the starters on the bench.
Coach Bill Carlyle's club caught up early in the second half before the lead changed hands eight times. Then Kobe Powell's three-pointer with 13:41 left put the Senators in front for good as they took off on an 18-3 run to break the game open.
It was the 20th victory for Walters State against seven losses and improved their TCCAA worksheet to 11-4 with three games remaining.
Motlow State is now 11-3 and has four league tilts to play. The Bucks are 15-9 overall.
The Senators used a balanced scoring attack for the victory, placing five players in double figures. Miles Thomas led the way with 18 while Deontae Davis and Khiry Shelton scored 13 apiece. Seth Lenard-Battle chipped in a dozen while Paris Taylor added 10.
Motlow State got 15 points from Joshua Greer while 6-10 Josh Endicott and Leo Castillo scored a dozen each.
Davis wound up with a double-double as he raked down 11 rebounds to lead Walters State to a 48-32 backboard advantage. Lenard-Battle grabbed nine and Taylor seven. Endicott speared nine stray shots for the Bucks.
Carlyle said, "Anytime you play Motlow you have to play hard because they have a really good basketball team. They started quick and strong and I don't know what the deal was but two or three of our players just weren't ready to play.
"But what I have to be happy about is the fact we put all subs in and they brought us back," he said. "I've said all year long that we have people other than the starters who can play and tonight was a perfect example of that against the number one team in the conference."
The coach went on to say, "They're good but I thought they lost their poise a little bit when we had that run. I was happy with the victory and I'm obviously happy to get within a game in the loss column in the conference race. There's still some games to play and we have to take care of our business now and see what happens.
"I thought Seth played really well today and it was probably his best game," added the coach. "And I'm happy to get Davis back because he really helps us on offense."
After shooting just 30 percent in the first half (12 of 40), the Senators scored 50 points and poured in 13 of 23 in the final 20 minutes to go along with 21 of 26 free throws.
When the statement was made that his team executed much better offensively in the second half, the veteran coach laughed and said, "I would certainly hope so. We had some players who got a little wild on me in the first half and you can't execute anything like that.
"But we went to halftime and had a good session and came out and did a much better job. We also played better on defense I thought and that also made a difference."
Neither team managed to shoot 40 percent for the game as the Senators were 39.7 and Motlow 38.5 (25 of 65). Walters State made 5 of 17 behind the arc and the Bucks were just 8 of 28.
To say it was a shaky start for the home team would be a huge understatement. Marcus Lace tipped in the first miss for the Bucks and then Castillo nailed a long three from the corner.
Taylor got the Senators on the scoreboard but Endicott scored inside and Castillo knocked down another triple and then a short jumper and it was 12-2 just 3:18 into the game.
The Bucks had their largest lead at 15-4 and again at 22-11 off a basket by Jayvon Humphrey. But the visitors missed eight straight foul shots when they could have added to their margin and Walters State started to battle back.
Baskets by Demontay Dixon and Battle and then a bucket and long three by Davis got the Senators within 25-23. Darius Harding made a free throw for Motlow before Powell drained a three to get Walters State even for the first time at 26-26.
However, Greer hit a bucket and followed it with a three and the Bucks went on to a 35-32 halftime lead.
A free throw by Thomas gave the home team its first lead at 38-37 but Endicott hit a three that was answered by Davis and the teams traded points for a couple of minutes.
Humphrey's triple gave the Bucks their last lead at 51-49 with 13:49 to play but Powell hit the three that put the home team in front for good and followed with a driving layup. Taylor then scored before Jarius Key had an old-fashioned three-point play for the Bucks at the 11:40 mark.
By the time Motlow scored again, the Senators had scored 11 more points with six of those at the charity stripe and the others coming on a three by Davis and a basket by Shelton.
Humphrey broke the scoreless streak at 7:03 for the losers but the Senators pulled steadily away, making 11 of 12 free throws down the stretch.