LAKE WALES, Fla.—A quick start helped the Fire men’s basketball team punch its ticket to The Sun Conference Semifinals for the first time since 2015.
Double-doubles by Ryan Atkins and Isaac Barsh helped the Fire defeat Warner 73-70.
Atkins and Barsh helped the Fire win the rebounding battle 39-34. It was the offensive glass that paid the most dividends, getting 16 second chance points off of 13 offensive rebounds.
Grant Bryant led the Fire in scoring with 18 points, and had seven rebounds, an assist and a block in 31 minutes of play. Additionally, his defense against Warner big man Khalil Ozuna was stellar, holding him to 6-of-15 from the field.
“He was locked in all week,” said coach R-Jay Barsh of Bryant. “We just wanted him to go out and play, keep Ozuna in front, and contest.”
A 13-2 run spanning 3:15 gave Southeastern a 24-15 lead with 8:37 left in the half. A 3-pointer by Jeremy Oppenheimer with 7:46 left ran the lead to double digits (27-17), and was a big part of a 7-0 run to push the advantage up to 14.
A jumper by Atkins with 3:18 left in the first gave SEU its biggest lead at 39-23.
However, Melton Sanders scored eight points in the final 1:55 and helped shave the halftime lead to 42-35.
Sanders led all scorers with 34 points. His basket with 4:45 to play in regulation gave Warner a 66-65 lead.
Barsh answered on the next possession with a basket, which regained the lead for good.
Warner made it a two-point game with 15 second left, but a CJ Reese free throw forced Warner to shoot for three on the final possession of the game, which came up short.
“All the close games that we played early in the season helped us learn how to close out games,” said Barsh. “Tonight, our guys stepped up and made the right plays when it was time to close it out.”
Jeremy Oppenheimer added 13 points, three rebounds, and four assists to the winning effort. Off the bench, Josiah Barsh had 12 points.
Southeastern will face the regular season Sun Conference champion St. Thomas on Monday at 5 p.m. in Miami Gardens.
“St. Thomas is a very good team, but we need to come out ready to play,” said Barsh. “We need to go in with confidence, and defend and rebound.”