January 14, 2012

Huntingdon men win GSAC opener, beat Maryville for first time since 2006

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Sophomore Courtnee Edgar and his Huntingdon teammates don't want to forget the first part of the season. They want to learn from it.

It was a tough stretch that included an 0-7 start and eight straight road games. But the early adversity challenged the Hawks to become a stronger team.

There is still improvement to be made, but Saturday's 87-74 win over Maryville College was a big step for Huntingdon (4-9). It was the fourth win in six games and gives Huntingdon a 1-0 record in the Great South Athletic Conference.

"It feels good to be 1-0 in the conference," said Edgar, who turned in season highs with 22 points, eight rebounds and three assists on Saturday. "The way the season started, it's big for us to get a win like this to open conference play. The team is really starting to play well together. When we all do our part and contribute, everything comes together. We want to keep playing with intensity, keep working hard and keep winning."

The win also snapped a 14-game losing streak to Maryville (10-7, 1-1 GSAC), dating to the 2006 GSAC tournament. A perennial GSAC power, Maryville has won the conference tournament eight times in 11 seasons.

"This was a huge win for us," Huntingdon head coach Mike Pugh said. "Starting 1-0 in the conference is big. But to be 1-0 by beating a good team like Maryville, that says something about our guys. We've been through a lot of adversity this season, but I think it's made us stronger."

Behind Edgar, Jason Varney turned in 16 points and seven rebounds, Jeremiah Thomas added 14 points and eight rebounds and Ryan Petty finished with 13 points. Mike Kilpatrick had a team-high four assists.

But it was a strong defensive effort and a pair of Kanden Blackmon 3-pointers in the second half that Pugh credited with helping to break the game open.

Leading by five points with 12:28 to play, Blackmon hit two 3-pointers in a little more than a minute. An Edgar layup in between the two 3s offset a Maryville basket to give the Hawks an 11-point lead with 10:41 to play.

Huntingdon was able to maintain at least an eight-point lead the rest of the game and stretched the lead to 18 points in the final minutes.

"Kanden made two big 3s in the second half that helped us get some separation," Pugh said. "Once he made those shots, we played defense and rebounded our tails off the rest of the game to keep the lead. Maryville is the top team in the conference in rebounding and we outrebounded them tonight. Our guys really worked hard for this one."

Maryville finished with 43 rebounds and the Hawks pulled down 47.

Pugh also praised the Huntingdon fans and band for the enthusiasm they helped create at Roland Arena. After playing on the road so much this season, Pugh said the excitement generated at home is noticeable.

"This is something that doesn't get mentioned a lot, but I think our fans and our band give us a great atmosphere at home," Pugh said. "They're into the game, they're making noise and it makes it fun to play in front of them. Against Berry earlier in the week and again tonight, it added to the excitement of the game."

Huntingdon returns to action on Monday at home against Pensacola Christian. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.