By Joshua J. Darling, Sports Information Director
JACKSON, Miss. – In a battle for first place in the Collegiate Conference of the South (CCS), LaGrange (11-6, 3-1 CCS) came all the way back in the second half but could not recover from a second double-digit deficit as fell by an 87-78 score at Belhaven (8-6, 4-1 CCS) in an NCAA Division III men's basketball game on Saturday, January 14.
Senior guard Bershard Edwards (Lehigh Acres, Fla.) lit it up for 20 points and added six boards and three assists to lead the Panthers while junior guard Gabe Cofield (LaGrange, Ga.) went 3-of-5 beyond the arc for 17 points. Sophomore forward Kyle Smith (Titusville, Fla.) dropped 15 points and senior forward Zac Hill (Senoia, Ga.) added 11 points and five caroms with junior guard Camerin Lyons (Peachtree City, Ga.) rounding things out with eight points.
The Blazers would race out to an early 10-2 lead over the first two and a minutes but LaGrange would bounce back over the next 6:03 as they put together a 16-8 run to knot it up at 18-18 by the 11:25 mark. They would deadlock again at 21-21 but from there BU would retake control with a 13-4 burst to pull back ahead 34-25 with 7:24 on the clock.
Over the next 4:28 the Panthers would take eight of the next 13 points to narrow the margin to 39-33 before Belhaven took a 46-37 lead into the break.
LC would find their rhythm over the first 6:13 of the second half as they used five different scorers to power at 14-4 run that would flip the script and put them ahead 51-50. BU would retake the lead on a Damien Wheaton jumper and extend it to 54-51 with a layup by Martavin McWilliams but Parker Gonzalez would stem the tide with a layup to cut it to one at the 11:21 mark.
Belhaven answered right back as they used a 12-3 run to extend to a 66-56 advantage with 8:36 to play. Undaunted, the Panthers clawed back over the next 8:45 as Cofield scored six points in a 14-5 stretch that pulled them with one, 71-70, with 4:21 to play.
They would not be able to get over the hump, however, as the Blazers pushed out to an 80-72 lead with 1:52 to play. LC would rally to within four, 82-78, with 57 seconds left but would get no closer as BU knocked down five of six free throws down the stretch to escape with the 87-78 victory.
Luke Couch anchored the effort for the Blazers as he went 8-of-11 from the field and was a perfect 3-of-3 from long range and 6-of-6 from the charity stripe on his way to a game-high 25 points. He added five caroms and three assists and Jordan Marshall went for 21 points with five boards, three assists and a pair of steals. Wheaton finished with six points and nine boards and Martavin and Matthew McMillan rounded out the double-figure scorers with 11 and 10 points, respectively.
After opening the 2023 portion of the schedule with four straight road games, LaGrange returns to the friendly confines of Mariotti Gym on Tuesday, January 17. That day they will host Covenant with tip-off set for 7 p.m.