Saint Leo men’s basketball kicked off their season by hosting the Gulf South Challenge Classic. On Nov. 13 the Lions faced off against an opposing pride of Lions, from the University of North Alabama. The Saint Leo faithful packed out the Marion Bowman center for the 7 pm tip-off.
The first half consisted of up tempo basketball that saw a bunch of lead changes. Senior Trey Griseck hit a last second shot to end a tightly contested first half, to give the Lions a 42-38 lead after the first.
North Alabama came out of the locker room on fire, and took a quick ten point advantage over the Lions. Saint Leo sophomore Ryan Burnett supplied a spark off the bench with three consecutive buckets to keep them within striking distance.
“I wanted to play hard, and provide a spark off the bench. Whether it’s in a starting role or coming off the bench I want to do anything I can to help the team win”. Said Burnett on his 18 point 9 rebound performance.
Clutch threes by Saint Leo junior Marcus Dewberry, and sophomore Tyreece Pierce evened the score, and gave Saint Leo the momentum as time winded down. Despite struggling from the line all night, Saint Leo hit a number of clutch free throws down the stretch to seal the deal, giving them a 97-90 victory.
“I was displeased to see my team shoot poorly from the line, but it felt good to see the young guys step up down the stretch,” said Saint Leo Head Coach Vince Alexander
Saint Leo saw solid performances from a plethora of players. Dewberry, Sophomore Caleb Stewart, and freshman Carter Belling all contributed 16 points, with Brice also adding 15.
This was the first win for head coach Vince Alexander at the helm.
“I’m excited to get the new era started, it felt great to get the first win under the belt. We definitely have room for improvement, but I’m proud of my guys for competing the entire forty minutes.” Said Alexander.
Saturday Nov. 14 The Lions squared off against the #12 ranked Alabama Huntsville Chargers in their second game in as many days.
“They are a very experienced team who can shoot the three. If we want to be successful we must defend the three and rebound the ball”. Said Alexander
Both teams were proficient from behind the arc, each shooting 50% from three point range in the first. The high scoring first half saw the Chargers take a 48-46 lead into the locker room.
The Lions opened up the second half with an impressive run. The Chargers were quick to respond with a run of their own, which set the stage for an exhilarating finish. With the game tied at 80 apiece, both teams had chances to take a lead in the final seconds with neither being successful.
The OT session started with both teams playing extremely tight defense, but eventually the Lions were able to pull away with more clutch free throw shooting, and nab an impressive 93-90 victory over a nationally ranked opponent. Leading the way from the charity strike in bonus time was sophomore transfer Stewart, who had a game high 29 points. The Lions also saw another very strong performance from Dewberry who had 26 points.
The Lions start the season with two pivotal victories.
“It felt great, the guys are really starting to come together and believe in the system. I am very happy with tonight’s performance, but we must still continue to get better” Said Alexander.