DANVILLE, Va. - CHAMPIONS! LaGrange shut down Methodist 75-56 to win the 2017 USA South Tournament championship Saturday at the Grant Center of Averett University.
The Panthers (18-10) won their third conference tournament title in the past four years. They also clinched a berth in the NCAA Division III national tournament for the fourth straight year.
"What a complete team this bunch of young men have proven to be," said Coach Kendal Wallace, who became the first LaGrange basketball coach to win three conference tournament championships. "These guys have overcome so much adversity throughout the season and were determined to be successful. They never gave up on themselves or each other."
LaGrange, which did not have a player named to the all-conference team, defeated top-seeded Averett, second-seeded Methodist, and fourth-seeded William Peace in the tournament. The Panthers have gone 8-1 since losing to Methodist 75-63 on Jan. 28.
"To have no member of our team selected to the all-conference team was motivation for these guys to go out and prove who the best team was and they did that," said Wallace. "As a coach its hard to find a better group of guys to go to work with. I'm so proud and happy for them."
The Panthers had five players in double figures. Alex Bonner led the way with 17 points, followed by Travis Thompson with 15. Drew Vanderbrook had a double-double of 12 points and a game-high 11 rebounds. Justyn Olson finished with 11 points and Jamison McCray had 10 off the bench.
Bonner was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player. He had the game-winning shot against William Peace and led the team twice in scoring. Olson and Thompson joined Bonner on the all-tournament team.
The Panthers led 37-36 at halftime. The score was tied nine times and the lead changed hands six times in the half.
Methodist (17-11) took its last lead, 44-42, with 14:35 remaining. The Panthers held the Monarchs to just 12 points the rest of the way. Methodist was just 5-for-30 shooting in the second half.
Vanderbrook's layup off an assist from Bonner started a 21-5 run by LC over a nine minute span. Vanderbrook and Thompson finished the run with back-to-back treys to put the Panthers up 63-49. The 75-56 final score was the Panthers' largest lead.
The Panthers will find out their destination for the NCAA tournament on Monday.
"It's a great day to be a Panther! We look forward to playing in the NCAA tournament," Wallace said. "We don't want this to end."