BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (March 3, 2018) – “Going all the way back to August until today, they’ve been challenged. The challenges they’ve met have been unreal from start to finish, but we’re not done yet,” said Coach Ricky Jackson, head men’s basketball coach at Claflin University.
These challenges have only pushed the Claflin Panthers forward as they solidified their first title as 2018 SIAC Men’s Basketball Tournament Champions since joining the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
Jaleel Charles, who was named this year’s All-Tournament Most Valuable Player, scored 18 points for the Panthers while adding 10 rebounds which lifted Claflin over previous champions, Clark Atlanta, in a 69-61 victory.
“From the jump, we just wanted to win. We said in the locker room, it doesn’t matter what it takes, the next man, me, Triston, Benjamin “Tre” Williams, we were going to get it done and everybody stuck by their game plan,” Charles said.
The Claflin Panthers (25-6) secured their championship title after finishing third place in the eastern division during regular season.
Clark Atlanta Panthers struggled shooting in the paint and from behind the arc as the Claflin Panthers kept them shooting under 35 percent in both categories. Claflin led the entire game as Clark Atlanta encountered various fouling troubles throughout the game.
“I thought it was a great game. I thought they thoroughly outhustled and outworked us. When you shoot 35 percent from the field, 15 percent from the 3-point line, and 64 percent from the free-throw line, you won’t beat anybody. Let’s just call a spade a spade,” said head men’s basketball coach, Darrell Walker.
Claflin finished by outscoring Clark Atlanta 11-7 in the final four minutes, the final point a free-throw by Benjamin Williams.
Clark Atlanta (24-5) fell 2-1 within the tournament having split with Claflin in the regular season.
“Our rebounding we kind of cleaned up, but we have to get our basketball IQ better. I’ve been saying it for the past four to five weeks,” emphasized Walker.
Akil Douglas led scoring with 14 points as Mitchell and Davis added 12 for the Clark Atlanta Panthers.
With 4:06 remaining, Triston Thompson tried for a jumper and was successful as the Clark Atlanta Panthers trailed and eventually fell, leading the Claflin Panthers to their first conference title.
2018 Men’s Basketball All-Tournament Team
MVP: Jaleel Charles (Claflin)
Brandon Morris (Benedict)
Triston Thompson (Claflin)
Akil Douglas (Clark Atlanta)
Cairo Brown (Benedict)