by Michael D. Gunnell
Southwest Sports Information
The 2017-18 basketball season came to an unfortunate end for the Bears Thursday afternoon in Clinton as they fell to the Holmes Bulldogs, 89-74, in the semi-final round of the NJCAA Region 23 Tournament. The Bears' appearance marked their second straight trip to the regional semis making them one of only two teams in the state to accomplish that feat.
With the loss, the Bears finish the campaign with a 17-9 mark. Holmes moved to the title game with a record of 23-4.
An old-fashioned three pointer from John Knight III gave the Bears an early 3-0 lead. But, Holmes quickly scored four straight to take a 4-3 lead with 18:20 left in the first half.
The Bears trailed 24-15 before cutting their deficit to 26-19 on a pair of Antonio Cowart, Jr., free throws with 7:33 on the clock. Holmes then outscored the Bears 9-3 to take their largest lead of the half, 35-22, with 5:03 left before the break. They then went on to take a 39-29 lead at intermission.
Buckets from Howard Smith and Roydell Brown helped the Bears outscore Holmes 9-2 to open the second half and cut the Holmes lead to 41-38 with 17:33 left in the game.
Unfortunately for the Bears, Holmes quickly began finding the range. Going on a 19-6 run, they built their pushed out to a 60-44 lead with 11:20 on the clock.
A Brown three point play brought the Bears back to within 68-56 with 7:14 remaining, but they would be unable to close the gap any further as Holmes went on to claim the win.
Bears head coach Thomas Gray said afterwards he is "very proud of these guys. I'm proud of the effort they had over the course of the year. Being one of the only two teams in the state that made it the semi-finals the past two years is something for these sophomores to hold their heads high about."
"I can't say enough about the impact that Roydell, Ricardo Lynch, Antonio and Jeremy Harrell had on our program this year," Gray continued, "and especially Jeremy and Antonio for the past two years."
Knight III led all scorers in the game with 26 points while Brown's 17 points and 10 rebounds gave him his 15th double-double of the season. As a team, the Bears made 26 of 35 free throws.
Justin Johnson scored 19 points to pace the Holmes offense. He and his teammates went 21-28 at the free throw line.