Winthrop Wins 2017 Men's Basketball Championship - Mar 6, 2017
Winthrop punched its ticket to the NCAA Tournament Sunday, ending three years of heartbreak in the Big South Conference Tournament Championship game. Keon Johnson (5'7''-PG-95) scored 20 of his 26 points in the second half to lead the top-seeded Eagles to a 76-59 win over No. 7 Campbell before a crowd of 5,109 at Winthrop Coliseum. Winthrop, which last appeared in the NCAAs in 2010, had lost in the title game three straight years before ending that streak against the Camels, who were trying to become the first seventh seed to win the Big South championship. Winthrop shared the regular-season title with UNC Asheville and with three tournament wins improved to 26-6. The Eagles will find out next Sunday who and where they'll play in the NCAA Tournament. This will be Pat Kelsey 's first trip to the Big Dance as Winthrop's head coach and his 12th overall as either an assistant or player. 'It's the biggest of the big time,' Kelsey said of being able to participate in the tournament. 'I'm so excited these kids will get to experience that.' Kelsey said it didn't take long for him to realize his players were ready to hang another championship banner in their arena. 'I knew when I walked into the locker room today this was a determined bunch that wasn't going to be denied,' he said. He also was surprised when the soft-spoken Johnson asked to address the team. 'Keon is a man of very few words,' Kelsey said. 'When he talks, everybody listens and when he talks as passionately as he did today I didn't have to say another word.' Johnson's message was short and to the point. "Protect your brothers at all costs," said Johnson. "I just wanted to pour that into them." Keon Johnson, the Big South's Player of the Year, was named Tournament MVP, finishing with 88 points in three games. Joining him on the All-Tournament team was teammate Xavier Cooks, who scored 17 points and grabbed a game-high 14 rebounds against the Camels. Campbell sophomore guard Chris Clemons (5'9''-PG-97), who set a Big South record with 51 points in a quarterfinal win over Asheville, led all scorers Sunday with 29 points. He finished with a Big South Tournament-record 140 points in four games, a 35-point average, and also made the All-Tournament squad. Gardner-Webb's Laquincy Rideau (6'1''-PG-96) and Charleston Southern's Christian Keeling (6'3''-G) rounded out the five-player postseason team. Johnson and Clemons both struggled in the first half. Johnson made just 1 of 8 field-goal attempts but sank all four of his free throws for six points. Clemons missed his first three shots then made back-to-back threes early in the half. But he went cold and missed his last seven field-goal attempts and finished with 10 first-half points. Winthrop jumped out to a 12-2 lead behind a couple of three-pointers from Roderick Perkins (6'5''-F-92), who scored all 15 of his points in the first half. Campbell battled back to tie the game at 21-21, but was outscored 20-13 in the final 10 minutes and trailed 41-34 at intermission. Johnson opened the second half with back-to-back three pointers to help the Eagles take a 47-34 lead. Campbell, playing in the Championship game for the fifth time, didn't get closer than 11 points after that. 'I'm disappointed I didn't play as well as I hoped to. I didn't shoot very well,' said Clemons, who made 9 of 27 shots including 6 of 18 from behind the three-point line. 'Our guys play hard and fight for one another. I'm happy to be a part of that.' Campbell coach Kevin McGeehan said he was proud of his team's late season surge. 'This type of run is a program-changing type of thing,' he said.
Courtesy of BigSouthSports
Big South Conf. Tournament Final: Winthrop - Campbell 76-59 Big South Conf. Tournament Semifinals: Winthrop - Gardner-Webb 80-77 Campbell - Radford 66-50
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