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Posted on Friday, February 17, 2017 at 8:00 am

Motlow men win berth in NJCAA national tournament

MOTLOW STATE COMMUNITY COLLEGE SPORTS INFORMATION

Motlow State freshman Dillon Smith scored five points in the final 19 seconds to force overtime, and the Bucks outscored Southwest Tennessee 13-2 in the extra period to beat the Saluqis 81-70 Wednesday night at Copperweld Arena.

With the win, the Bucks (23-4, 12-3) clinched the Tennessee Community College Athletic Association (TCCAA) regular season championship and a berth in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Tournament, to be held March 20-25 in Hutchinson, Kansas.

“I couldn’t be more proud of this team for what they have accomplished to this point,” said Burton, now 48-11 in his second year at Motlow. “From the first day of off-season workouts, to the start of practice on Nov. 1, until now, these guys have bought in to our system and bought in to their roles on this team. I also want to acknowledge the tremendous work ethic of my assistant coaches Arthur Latham and Zach Holt. We could not have gotten where we are without them.”

Motlow State men's basketball coaching staff, from left J.T. Burton, head coach; and assistants Zach Holt and Arthur Latham, are pictured from a game earlier this season, along with post player Aleksan-dar Zecevic. The staff, in its second season at Motlow and with no players returning from last year, led the Bucks to the regular season TCCAA/Region VII championship and a berth in the NJCAA national tournament. Photo by Jeff Reed Photography

Motlow State men’s basketball coaching staff, from left J.T. Burton, head coach; and assistants Zach Holt and Arthur Latham, are pictured from a game earlier this season, along with post player Aleksandar Zecevic. The staff, in its second season at Motlow and with no players returning from last year, led the Bucks to the regular season TCCAA/Region VII championship and a berth in the NJCAA national tournament.
Photo by Jeff Reed Photography

The NJCAA grants automatic berths to the tournament champions of its 16 regions. In addition, it also grants four automatic berths to regular season champions on a rotating basis. This year the TCCAA, which is Region VII in the NJCAA, gets one of those ‘extra’ berths, and the Bucks earned that with their regular season conference championship. The winner of the upcoming TCCAA/Region VII Tournament, to be held in Morristown March 6-10, will also earn a berth in the national tournament. If the Bucks win the TCCAA tournament then the runner-up will get the second national tournament berth.

The Bucks and the Saluqis played a thrilling game in front of a large, vocal crowd on Wednesday. The lead swapped back and forth the entire game, with Southwest leading 29-28 at the end of the first half. The Saluqis led by six with three minutes to play, but Motlow pulled within one with 1:30 left on the clock when Rashawn Fredericks hit a corner three-pointer.

Southwest built the lead back to five in the final thirty seconds before Smith, a Lexington, Tenn., product, nailed his three-pointer from the top of the key to pull the Bucks within two. On the ensuing inbounds pass, Motlow’s Isaiah Hart stole the ball and got it to Smith, who was fouled and calmly sank both free throws. Southwest had a good look at the rim with its final shot, but it didn’t connect and the game went into overtime.

Aleksandar Zecevic had his best game of the season, scoring 20 points and hauling in 11 rebounds. Fredericks scored 15 with 14 rebounds, Javion Hamlet had 12 points and 13 assists, Smith scored 15, Hart had nine points, five rebounds and five steals, and Jalen Bell scored eight with six rebounds.

The trip to ‘The Tournament’ in Hutchinson will be the second in the past five years and only the second in history for the men’s program at Motlow. In 2012-13 the Bucks won one game and lost the second in Hutchinson after winning both the TCCAA/Region VII regular season and tournament championships. Motlow’s three previous tournament championships, won in 1972-73, 1981-82 and 1983-84, did not result in trips to the national tournament. Prior to 2012-13 the NJCAA only allowed its 16 region tournament champions to advance to the national tournament.