CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Saying Walters State's Miles Thomas can be explosive on offense is quite an understatement. Wednesday night in Cleveland, the sophomore from Knoxville proved just how explosive he could be.
After seeing his team fall behind by 15 nearing the four-minute mark of the first half, Thomas took the game over and willed the Senators to a come-from-behind 78-69 victory over Cleveland State, scoring a career-high 45 points in pushing Walters State into first place in the Tennessee Community College Athletic Association standings after Motlow State dropped a 114-105 decision to Dyersburg State on Wednesday.
Thomas did most of his damage in the second half, scoring 32 of his team's 50 points in the final 20 minutes as the Senators improved to 21-7 on the year and 12-4 in TCCAA play. The loss dropped the Cougars to 10-13 overall and 6-9 in league action.
It was a nightmare first half for the Senators, as Kajuan Hale sat most of the half with foul trouble after being whistled for his second foul less than four minutes into the game. Hale, Paris Taylor, Khiry Shelton and Demontay Dixon, all key contributors throughout the season, combined for a scoreless opening 20 minutes.
Cleveland State rolled off the opening eight points in the contest and led throughout the frame, with the margin widening to 30-15 with 4:12 left in the half. The Senators snapped out of a funk in the final four minutes and change of the half, scoring 16 points and cutting the deficit to 34-26 at the break.
Thomas and Seth Lenard-Battle led WSCC's comeback effort in the half, as Thomas had 13 points and Lenard-Battle added 10 in the half. Only four Senators put points on the board in the opening 20 minutes.
The Cougars widened their lead to 60-51 at the midway point of the second half, but an 8-0 WSCC run capped by a dunk from Lenard-Battle closed the margin to 60-59 with 7:47 left in the contest. Thomas and Lenard-Battle scored on consecutive trips down the floor to knot the score twice, with the second time sparking a closing 11-0 run by the Senators to get the win.
Cleveland State was held scoreless over the final 3:57 of the game.
Walters Stat shot 43.3 percent (26 of 60) from the field in the win, making 2 of 8 from long distance and 24 of 32 at the stripe while only turning the ball over six times in the game. Thomas was 16 of 28 from the field, making a 3-pointer and 12 of 15 free throws for his 45 points. He added eight rebounds, matching Paris Taylor for the game high.
Lenard-Battle tossed in 14 points in the win, while Deontae Davis added eight points in the victory. No other Senator scored more than three. Hale finished with eight assists after playing all 20 minutes in the second half.
The Cougars shot 34.5 percent (20 of 58) from the floor in the contest, making 5 of 20 from deep and 24 of 30 at the free throw line. Delaino Walker led four Cleveland State players in double digits with 16 points, while Jonathon King added a dozen points, Darius Turman had 11 and Exavian Young tallied 10 in the loss. Maurice Dickson narrowly missed a double-double, as he notched nine points and 11 rebounds in the defeat.
The Senators will close out the home schedule on Saturday by hosting Chattanooga State on sophomore day inside 'Z' Buda Gymnasium. The game is scheduled for a 4 p.m. start.