PEMBROKE, N.C. – The University of Montevallo men's basketball team advanced to its fourth consecutive Peach Belt Conference Tournament Championship Game on Saturday night, defeating the No. 15 UNC Pembroke Braves, 73-68.
Montevallo won the regular season title in the Peach Belt Conference with a conference record of 17-2, two losses better than any other Peach Belt school.
In the first half, points were hard to come by in the physical, fast contest.
The Braves average more 81 points per game and are the top scoring offense in the league, but were held to just 31 points on 29% shooting during the first 20 minutes.
Montevallo was marred by foul trouble in the first half, with Shykeem Jackson and Troran Brown each picking up three fouls. Brown, the Peach Belt Player of the Year for the second consecutive season, was limited to just 11 minutes due to foul trouble and scored only three points.
Before he was forced to go to the bench with his third foul, Jackson delivered a solid half and was tied for a game-high 10 points at the break. Jackson shot 60% from the floor, making both of his free throws and a pair of three-pointers.
Malik Fields also came up big for Montevallo, shooting 75% from the floor and scoring 8 points, second on the team.
With time running down in the first half, Kimani Key, who was seeing extended time due to the Falcon foul issues, scored his first points since January 14. The junior from Birmingham, Alabama hit a deep three-pointer as the buzzer sounded to put UM on top, 34-31.
The start of the second half would fail to paint a clearer picture as to who would be victorious in the semifinal matchup, as the Montevallo lead would be tested on several occasions. In front of a rowdy home crowd, the Braves cut the UM lead to just a single point on three separate occasions, but were unable to ever overtake the regular season PBC Champions.
Over the span of a little more than three minutes, Montevallo went on a 12-2 run that gave them a 63-51 advantage with just under five minutes to go in regulation. That run was bookended by a pair of Brown three-pointers.
After scoring just three points in the first half, the two-time PBC Player of the Year scored 14 points in the second half, going 6-for-7 from the free throw line in addition to shooting 60% from the field.
UNCP would storm back, cutting the lead to three points after a five-point possession following a basket, a missed free throw, an offensive rebound, and a three-point shot.
The Falcons would answer with a Fields baseline jumper, capping off the junior's 13 points on the day.
When Pembroke matched the basket with two made free throws, Brown drove the lane and found Second Team All-PBC selection Larry Slaughter for a dunk, clinching the Montevallo win.
The final score would be 73-68, in favor of UM. A big part of the Falcon's win came at the free throw line, where they shot 72.7% as a team, converting 24 of their 33 attempts.
Slaughter went 8-for-10 from the line, making 80% of his free throws on his way to his 11th double-double of the year, scoring 14 points and grabbing 14 rebounds, a game high.
Jackson finished with 13 points and also had three steals.
With the win, Montevallo (23-8, 17-2) advances to its fourth straight conference championship game and will play either Columbus State University or Young Harris College.
The Falcons went a combined 4-0 against those teams during the regular season.
The PBC Title Game will be tomorrow, March 8, at 4:30 p.m. EST/3:30 p.m. CST at the English E. Jones Center in Pembroke, North Carolina.