It was a battle of two of the top teams in the SAA on Friday, as Berry (10-4, 3-1 SAA) opened up its home-conference slate. The Vikings used a big night from senior forward Elijah Hirsh (24 pts and 11 rebs) and efficient shooting to hold off the visiting Sewanee Tigers (13-2, 2-2 SAA).
The atmosphere in the Cage Center was electric as Berry jumped out to a fast start. Senior guard Quinn Atkinson brought the crowd to its feet with back to back acrobatic drives to the basket. Atkinson finished the night with 13 points and six rebounds. The Vikings shot 44% in the first half and used that momentum to head into half-time with a 28-21 lead.
The Vikings defense stifled the high-powered offense of the Tigers, holding them to just 28% from the field. Star point guard and SAA points leader, Luke Smith was unable to get a rhythm offensively in the first half. However, Smith took over in the second half finishing with 27 points, six assists, and five rebounds.
After a low-scoring first half, both teams traded blows like two heavyweight fighters. Late in the game, senior guard Miles Moore hit clutch free throws to make it 59-57 Berry with 22 seconds remaining. Moore finished with 10 points and three assists. After a quick timeout, Smith tied the game up with four seconds remaining with a nice drive and layup. Moore then would hit a shot as time expired, but it was ruled that he did not get the shot off in time.
As overtime started both teams went back and forth until Moore hit another free throw to make it 67-64 with 29 seconds left. Joey Knox missed a layup with 13 seconds left and forward Ethan Haslam grabbed the rebound and hit two more free throws to secure the 69-64 victory for the Vikings.
The win puts Berry just one victory short of their season total of 11 last year. The Vikings didn’t win their 10th game until the SAA Semifinals on Feb. 24th last season.
Berry is back in action on Sunday as they host Centre at 3:00 p.m. If the Vikings win, they will be in a tie the Colonels for first place in the SAA.