COLUMBUS, Ga. – The University of Montevallo men's basketball team (24-7) stormed back from an early deficit Sunday afternoon to capture the 2012 Peach Belt Conference Men's Basketball Championship with a 70-57 victory over host Columbus State University (18-11) in Frank G. Lumpkin Center.
With the victory, the Falcons earned the PBC's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Cougars will likely earn an at-large bid to the Big Dance. The official announcement of the full tournament field will be made at 10:30 p.m., Sunday night from the association's headquarters in Indianapolis, Ind.
The tournament title was the first for Montevallo, which was making its second championship game appearance in its three seasons as members of the PBC.
Falcons' senior guard D.J. Rivera (Philadelphia, Pa./Binghamton University), the league's scoring leader in the regular-season, tallied a team-high 22 points, including three 3-pointers, along with six rebounds. Backcourt mate senior Antoine Davis (Washington, D.C./College of the Desert) booked 15 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals.
CSU senior guard Steve Peterson booked a game-high 24 points, six boards and three steals. Darius Mcknight and Paul Darkwa managed 10 points each and combined for 17 rebounds.
Peterson helped the Cougars roar out to a blazing start, draining a pair of 3-pointers around a Darkwa jumper in the first three minutes as CSU built an 8-2 lead.
The top seed in the PBC's West Division, the Falcons answered with six straight points to knot the game at 8-all on a Marvin Fitzgerald (Milwaukee, Wisc./North Carolina Central) putback and Davis' reverse layup gave UM its first lead at the 14:21 mark and sparked a 9-0 spurt.
A DeMarcus Catchings' (Arlington, Texas/Cedar Valley College) layup at the 6:40 mark put Montevallo up by 11 at 26-15 and a Travis DeShazior (Fayetteville, N.C./Ohlone College) 3-pointer pushed the advantage to 29-15. Fitzgerald's offensive rebound and layup after a Davis miss made for a 36-19 Falcons' lead – their largest of the half -- at the 2:15 mark. The Cougars got baskets from Johnathan Murphy and Jarmarquis Steverson to close the gap to 36-23 at the half.
Rivera's trey just 39 seconds into the second half put the Falcons up 13 and a Drico Hightower (Augusta, Ga./Angelina College) free throw made it a 53-39 UM lead with 8:58 to play. After UM missed two free throws, Hightower came up with the loose ball and his putback gave the Falcons a 57-42. A Fitzgerald three-point play with 4:01 left gave Montevallo it's largest of the game at 62-44.
Rivera canned six free throws in the final 2:14 and the Cougars never got within 10 the rest of the way.
The Falcons shot 51.0 percent for the game and hit 6-of-12 3-pointers and won the rebounding edge, 37-35.
CSU was held to 35.8 percent from the field (19-of-53), including just 3-of-16 from long range.
The PBC announced the All-Tournament team at the conclusion of the game. USC Aiken's Re'Mon Nelson, Augusta State's Devon Wright-Nelson, Columbus State's Mcknight and Peterson along with Montevallo's Rivera and Davis, were named to the squad, with Davis earning Most Valuable Player honors.