BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — If one has seen a lot of firsts for the Shawnee State men’s basketball program, it’s because the success that the 2020-21 team has had has truly been unparalleled by any team before it.
Adding to a historic season that saw Shawnee State claim its first conference Player of the Year award and NAIA Coach of the Week honor in school history, along with a year that had a record five individuals earn all-conference accolades and five conference player of the week honors, the Bears — winners of a program-record 25 games and 21 straight contests coming in — took home their most special victory yet.
That was, in fact, a 70-54 win over Thomas More on Tuesday evening in the Mid-South Conference Tournament championship game.
Shawnee State, now winners of 22 consecutive, were hardly challenged in the 26-point triumph — shooting 29-of-55 as a team from the field for an outstanding 52-percent mark.
Defensively, the Bears held Thomas More to 19-of-53 shooting (37.5-percent).
The Bears crushed the Saints on the glass, winning the rebounding battle by a plus-17 margin (42-25) to aid in the dominating effort.
Onu completes conference
journey with MSC title hardware
Having posted arguably the best career in the history of the Shawnee State men’s basketball program, E.J. Onu cemented that status on Tuesday evening with an outstanding performance.
The senior big man from Cleveland, who entered the game with 1,493 points and 807 rebounds to his credit, added in a 14-point, 12-rebound line to lead the Bears to their first Mid-South Conference Tournament title — eclipsing the 1,500-point plateau and becoming only the third player in school history to accomplish such a feat.
He claimed nine points and nine rebounds in the second half alone — allowing SSU to easily pull away from its 30-25 halftime lead en route to the 70-54 win.
Jones adds in another
complete floor game
Throughout Tuesday evening’s contest, James Jones did as James Jones has done all season long — find ways to fill up the box score.
The 6-4 senior — who finished with a team-high 19 points and eight assists in the 16-point victory — scored 14 second-half tallies, posted four assists in both halves, and added five of his six rebounds in the opening half of play.
In short, he filled every role that Shawnee State needed him to fill.
continue coming up large
Following that main duo, Miles Thomas and Amier Gilmore continued their excellent efforts — as they have done throughout the year.
Thomas, who struggled to get his shot untracked in Monday evening’s MSC semifinal victory over Martin Methodist before coming up big late, had no such issues on Tuesday evening — dropping in 14 points and three rebounds on 6-of-9 shooting.
The senior wing scored nine of his 14 points in the opening half.
As for Gilmore, the 6-6 junior who came into Tuesday’s MSC Championship averaging 12.5 points and 12.5 rebounds, was big once again — posting nine points and seven rebounds to go along with four steals.
He finished the tournament averaging 11.3 points and 10.6 rebounds per outing, while coming up big at every stop.
Beyond that main quartet, Jakiel Wells and Isaac Abergut added six points apiece, while Donoven Carlisle added in five rebounds off the bench.
They added to an effort that has allowed DeLano Thomas and SSU to go 47-13 over their last 60 games.
The incredible turnaround has the fourth-year head coach sitting at 75 career wins for his time at Shawnee State.
Thomas, overall, is 75-46 with the NAIA Opening Round and National Tournament still yet to be played.
Tuesday’s victory was the Bears’ 17th double-digit win this season in 27 games.
The 54 points that Thomas More scored is the second-lowest point total that any opponent has scored against Shawnee State this entire season.
The SSU championship team includes the following: Head coach DeLano Thomas, Lindal Yarbrough, D’Andre Price, Zack Kelly, Jack Trainer, Justin Patrick, E.J. Onu, James Jones, Jakiel Wells, Miles Thomas, Amier Gilmore, Issac Abergut, Donoven Carlisle, Latavious Mitchell, Kobie Johnson, Bailey Davis, Tre Beard, Shawn Paris, Jr., Markus Geldenhuys, Corie Blount Jr., Desmond Crosby, Jr., and Levi Roberts.
For more information on SSU Bears Athletics, visit www.ssubears.com or visit the Twitter and Facebook pages at https://twitter.com/SSUBears and https://www.facebook.com/SSUBears. For more information on how to join the SSU Bear Club or for sponsorship of specific SSU players or events, visit https://givetossu.com/bear-club and https://givetossu.com/sponsorthebears.