PORTSMOUTH — The late Sean Elliott, indeed, had to be proud of his Bears on Monday night.
And, even with no spectators inside Shawnee State’s Waller Gymnasium, Elliott — imaginably —enjoyed the game from the proverbial best seat in the house.
That’s because, in Shawnee State’s Sean Elliott Classic, the host Bears bagged 18 three-point goals on an incredible 46 attempts —and ultimately hit the century mark in amassing a 102-69 non-league win over Grace Christian University to stretch their school record win streak to now 13 games.
Shawnee State steamrolled its record to 17-2, while Grace Christian —an NCCAA institution and located in Grand Rapids, Mich. — fell to 4-8.
The NAIA’s No. 7-ranked Bears, as expected, overwhelmed the smaller national division Tigers —at least in the first half.
Despite being outscored 43-41 in the second 20 minutes, and taking their foot off the accelerator at halftime, the Bears were never in danger —aside from trailing for 25 seconds in the game’s opening three minutes.
Shawnee State scorched the nets for 38 made field goals —18 of which were three-pointers on 46 behind-the-arc attempts.
As the Tigers took leads of 2-0 and 4-2, Bears’ big man E.J. Onu immediately countered those baskets on the ensuing possessions —splashing both of his three-point goals for a 6-4 advantage to which Shawnee State never relinquished.
The Bears fired up a massive 78 shots, shooting 49-percent for the entire game after a sizzling 55-percent on 23-of-42 in the opening half.
They made exactly half of their 22 triple tries over that span, which accounted for more than half of their 61 first-half points —as their long-distance dial-ups alone outscored (33-26) the Tigers as a team (61-26).
The Bears also assisted on 34 of those 38 baskets, as the 34 assists (35 in the 1997-98 season vs. Ohio Christian) and 18 three-balls (19 in the 1998-99 season vs. Appalachian Bible College) were just one shy of school records for a single game.
Elliott, who played for Shawnee State during the 2007-08 season and then again in the 2013-14 and 2014-15 campaigns, was a prolific shooter in his college playing days.
Elliott was tragically killed in an automobile accident before his Shawnee State senior season in 2015, and was the leading scorer on the 2014-15 unit at 13.3 points per game.
He finished fourth in the country in free-throw percentage at 87.6-percent that season, and was 22nd in the nation in three-point field-goal percentage at 43-percent that year.
SSU men’s coach Delano Thomas agreed that Elliott would have liked what he saw from Shawnee State’s shooters and passers.
As part of honoring Elliott, the entire team and Shawnee State support staff donned t-shirts on Monday night with his uniform number “5” — with angel’s wings on both sides.
“Sean was a tremendous shooter, so he would have enjoyed that we shot 46 threes for the game. We made 11 in the first half. But I thought we did a good job with our intensity to start the game. We played very unselfish, both defensively and offensively. It was good to see that,” said Thomas.
The Bears rotated groups of five for the first half — with Onu, James Jones, Amier Gilmore, Isaac Abergut and Jakiel Wells starting and Donovan Carlisle, Miles Thomas, Latavious Mitchell, Shawn Paris Jr. and Tre Beard subbing in off the bench.
The five-in and five-out rotations, throughout the first half of the opening half, served their purpose in building a commanding 35-8 advantage at the first media timeout.
For the game, Beard of Chillicothe played 24 minutes and five seconds, while Paris played for 22:17.
With the exception of reserve Davis Bailey playing for eight minutes and 41 seconds, all of the other Bears played between 12 minutes and 14 seconds and 16 minutes and 46 tics.
“Everybody contributed tonight. I talk every day about Sean being such a selfless person. He was all about his teammates when he played, before he passed away.” said Thomas. “It was definitely exciting to see several other guys get extended minutes and actually see them being successful in those extended minutes.”
Eight of the 10 Bears which played scored —including five in double figures.
Onu, on five total field goals and 4-of-4 free throws, led the way with 16 points — as Thomas tallied five three-point goals for 15.
Jones, Beard and Paris Jr. tossed in three trifectas apiece for 14, 13 and 12 points respectively, as Paris Jr.’s final three —at long last with only two minutes and two seconds remaining — officially gave the Bears 100 points.
Bailey’s bucket with only 46 seconds showing made it 102.
It was the second time this season in which the Bears have hit at least 100 points, and is the first time since the 2011-12 season that Shawnee State has scored at least 100 points in two different games.
While watching and waiting for the 100-points plateau to be reached, the only other questions to be answered in the final few minutes was whether the Tigers would score 70 and/or whether the Bears’ would extend their lead to 40.
The answer to both was “no”, although Shawnee State’s lead did balloon in the second half to as much as 38 points at multiple junctures.
The Tigers did trim their deficit down to 28 (78-50) with 11 minutes remaining, but besides outscoring the Bears in the second 20 minutes, had little else to celebrate.
What Shawnee State did was celebrate Elliott’s life and legacy on Monday night with another victory —their lucky and good 13th in a row.
Thomas wants his charges to enjoy the amazing ride they are currently on, but to still steer focus towards the next opponent in order to keep an outstanding season going.
He also expressed his thanks for the support his Bears have received, including their expanded following on social media, as Shawnee State — because of the coronavirus threat — has played all of its home games this season without spectators.
“It’s all about the guys, getting them to understand this moment right now. It’s great to have won 13 in a row, but it’s all about the next day and the next game coming up,” said Thomas. “We are appreciative of all the support we have, because it has been difficult and very different without any fans being here. For those that are here live, we are thankful for them and we also thank those which follow us with social media. We’re trying to stay positive, keep our mind on the right things, but at the same, enjoy the moment we’re in.”
The Bears are back on the road, and back in Mid-South Conference action, with a two-game Southern states swing on Thursday (at Martin Methodist) and Saturday (Life University).
Those game times are at 9 p.m. on Thursday (Jan. 28) and at 4 p.m. on Saturday (Jan. 30).
* * *
Grace Christian 26 43 — 69
Shawnee State 61 41 —102
GRACE CHRISTIAN 69 (4-8)
Emone Roberson 2 0-0 5, Kierson Watts 3 3-3 9, Jarius Shumpert 4 1-2 9, Chandler Rivers 7 0-0 17, Kellem Bridgeforth 1 0-0 2, Spencer Grant 5 3-3 15, Jarmichael Heard 2 1-2 5, Eli Carlson 0 0-2 0, Tyler Robinson 1 0-0 2, Thomas Hill 2 0-0 5, Nathan Lauer 0 0-0 0, Zac Yourke 0 0-1 0; TOTALS 27 8-13 69; Three-point field goals: 7 (Chandler Rivers 3, Spencer Grant 2, Emone Roberson and Thomas Hill 1 apiece)
SHAWNEE STATE 102 (17-2)
Amier Gilmore 3 0-0 6, James Jones 5 1-2 14, E.J. Onu 5 4-4 16, Jakiel Wells 0 0-0 0, Isaac Abergut 0 0-0 0, Kobie Johnson 1 0-0 3, Tre Beard 5 0-0 13, Bailey Davis 2 0-0 4, Shawn Paris Jr. 4 1-2 12, Miles Thomas 5 0-0 15, Latavious Mitchell 4 1-2 9, Donovan Carlisle 4 0-0 9, Markus Geldenhuys 0 1-2 1; TOTALS 38 8-12 102; Three-point field goals: 18 (Miles Thomas 5, James Jones, Tre Beard, Shawn Paris Jr. 3 apiece, E.J. Onu 2, Donovan Carlisle and Kobie Johnson 1 apiece)
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved