HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- For the first time in school history, the Alabama-Huntsville (29-4) men's basketball team is Elite Eight bound after winning the NCAA South Region tournament on Tuesday night behind an 88-81 win over Stillman (23-8) at Spragins Hall in Huntsville.
In front of a school record 2,563 rabid fans, the Chargers pulled away from a resilient Tiger squad in the final five minutes of the contest. The spark was a monster dunk from senior guard Tyler Hanback (Meridianville), who hammered a jam home at 5:06 to put the Chargers ahead 73-67. Hanback then layed one off the glass at 3:31 to give the Chargers their largest lead of the night at 77-67.
"I want to congratulate Stillman for a hard fought game," remarked UAH head coach Lennie Acuff. "They had an awesome run throughout the tournament. We all feel very humble and blessed to get this win tonight. It would have been great to have Jim Harris here with us, he would have been so proud."
UAH managed to hit the free throws needed down the stretch as the Tigers tried to wrestle the lead away. Sophomore guard Xavier Baldwin (Adamsville) proved to be the biggest part, nailing 6-of-6 in the final three minutes as part of a 15-point night. Baldwin sealed the win with a pair of attempts from the charity stripe with 11 seconds remaining to earn the Chargers' first trip to the Elite Eight in Springfield, Mass.
The Chargers placed five players in double figures led by sophomore guard Jaime Smith (Birmingham), who scored 21 on the night on 7-of-12 shooting from the floor. Smith was joined in double digits by sophomore forward Zane Campbell (West Limestone) with 19 points, junior guard Josh Magette (Birmingham) and Baldwin with 15 and Hanback with 11.
Coming into tonight with only four points in the tournament, the senior showed up at the right time to spark the Chargers.
"I've struggled in the last few games, noted Hanback. "It was great to get some easy buckets tonight to build confidence back up. I got in the gym and shot a lot this week. My teammates really got my confidence up."
On the same day he earned NABC All-District honors, Magette's efforts throughout the event earned the veteran NCAA South Region Tournament Most Outstanding Player honors. He was joined on the All-Tournament team by Smith and Campbell along with Stillman's LaJay Sears and Kevin Johnson.
Johnson was a force for the Tigers on Tuesday night as the big man posted 21 points on 9-of-10 shooting from the field.
The Chargers take the court in their first Elite Eight contest on Wednesday, March 23rd taking on, Minnesota State at 1:30 p.m. at the MASSMUTUAL CENTER in Springfield, Mass.