Basketball's roller coaster season


Junior wing Ru White

The 2010-11 Hampden-Sydney Tiger basketball season was one of ups and downs. The Tigers started the season with a 4-1 record. The Tigers then won their Roundball Club Tip-Off Tournament and took the crown in the South Region Hoops Challenge, defeating eventual USA South Conference Champion and NCAA Tournament participant North Carolina Wesleyan.

The Tigers then went on the road to open up Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) play at nationally-ranked Eastern Mennonite, losing 79-63. After an easy win over Johnson & Wales, H-SC took another game on the chin, this time on the road at Randolph College.

The Tigers returned from winter break to host The Car Coop-Weenie Miller Holiday Hoops Tournament, winning their third tournament of the season. The Tigers hit the road again for an ODAC contest at Top-10 ranked Virginia Wesleyan. The Tigers nearly pulled off the upset, but late free throws by the Marlins secured the 69-61 H-SC loss.

The Tigers came back home to a 15-point victory over Roanoke College. Their three-game road stand ended with losses to Lynchburg and Bridgewater but a win over Washington & Lee.

The rough first-half stretch of ODAC games continued to plague the Tigers on their return home. Hosting arch-rival and top-10-ranked Randolph-Macon, the Tigers were down by 21 points with just 12:55 left in the game, when a remarkable comeback put the Tigers in position to win. Down just two with 57 seconds remaining, the Tigers got the ball back with 28 seconds left, but a Randall Ward three-point jumper from the corner came up short, as did a desperation three-point heave from halfcourt at the buzzer. Five days later, the Tigers hosted Lynchburg College, and a three-point shot from just above the arc by Fletcher Lumpkin rolled in and out, giving the Tigers a two-point loss.

With just a 2-7 ODAC record after nine games, the Tigers looked like they would have to battle to finish above the bottom three spots in the ODAC. However, the Tigers turned around their season with a string of victories.

Senior forward Colin O'Neill
First there was a 10-point victory over Randolph, in which Tiger fans saw a career-high performance from senior captain Colin O'Neill, who poured in 21 points. Then Tigers then rolled to a 21-point win against Bridgewater College. During a two-game road trip, the Tigers topped Emory & Henry by 10 and #19 Ferrum College 87-83. The Tigers' winning way continued at home in Fleet Gymnasium with wins over top-10 ranked Virginia Wesleyan, Washington & Lee, and Guilford.

Heading into the season finale against Randolph-Macon, the Tigers were tied for fifth in the conference with Randolph College. A win over the vaunted Yellow Jackets would secure the Tigers the fifth seed in the ODAC Tournament and a first-round bye.

The H-SC vs. R-MC rematch look like it was going to be a blowout win by the Yellow Jackets as they led by as many as 19 in the first half. However, the Tigers fought back into the game and even led in the second half. Down one with 45 seconds left, a Yellow Jacket player missed a layup and two free throws with just 10 seconds remaining. The Tigers got the rebound with the chance to win the game, but Ben Jessee missed a three-pointer at the buzzer to fall by one, 61-60.

The Tigers hosted a first-round ODAC Tournament game against the 11th seeded Emory & Henry and sent the Wasps packing with a 71-61 win, earning the Tigers a trip to Salem.

The night before the games in Salem, the ODAC Men's Basketball Banquet took place. Harrison George earned First-Team All-ODAC after leading the league in scoring and second in rebounding. O'Neill also earned a spot on the ODAC Sportmanship Team.

The Tigers vs. Royals quarterfinal game proved to be a classic thriller that came down to the buzzer. Ru White received the in-bounds pass but his half court shot at the buzzer was just a little too wide, as it bounced off the rim to give the Royals the win.

H-SC finished the season with a 17-10 record, the best record since 2006-07 and the first winning season since 2007-08. With only one senior lost to graduation, the Tigers will look to earn their 11th ODAC Championship in 2012.