Dahlonega, Ga. - Gaither Hendrix led a furious Brevard comeback, scoring 20 of his team high 26 points in the second half and Darius Moose and Drew Schauss were both in double-digits in the Tornados first action of the season, but Clarence Tillman’s game high 27 points led host North Georgia to the victory in the opening day of the Peach Belt/SAC Challenge as the Tornados fell to the Saints, 75-66.
A late 9-0 run closed out the first half for the Saints (1-0), giving North Georgia a 36-26 lead at the half, and another late 14-5 run closed out the contest to help the Saints hold off the Tornados (0-1) as Brevard shot 48.1 percent (25-52) from the floor in the contest and 33.3 percent (5-15) from behind the arc in their first game under new head coach Mark Prosser.
Hendrix led the Tornados on the contest, shooting nine-of-18 from the floor and 3-of-7 from behind the arc, scoring 20 of his team high 26 points in the second half as Brevard connected on 56.7 percent (17-30) of their field goal attempts in the final 20 minutes. Schauss added 11 points, hitting a pair of three points, while Darius Moose finished with 10 points, adding five rebounds and a pair of assists from the floor. Aleksandar Vasiljevic led the way on the boards for Brevard, pulling down a game high eight rebounds to go with nine points and a blocked shot in his first collegiate game with the Tornados.
Tillman led all players with 27 points, hitting 10-of-17 field goal attempts, going a perfect 6-of-6 from the free throw line, while added seven rebounds in leading the Saints to the victory. Elijah Smith added 13 points and a game high eight rebounds, while Pat Moynihan and Chaun Tinney had eight points apiece as the Saints improve to 1-0 on the season.
North Georgia scored the first seven points of the contest and 10 of the first 12 in building an early lead in Memorial Hall Basketball Gymnasium as Tillman and Moynihan both hit three-pointers in the early going. The Tornados battled back behind back-to-back jumpers by Moose to cut the game to 12-8 with 13:13 to play in the first half.
The remainder of the first half settled into series of runs as North Georgia would extend their lead, while the Tornados would battle back to keep the game close, but the Tornados were unable to take the lead.
A Schauss three-pointer and a pair of Hendrix free throws cut the game back to 27-26 with 2:46 left in the half as the Tornados came within their first lead of the game, but Smith answered with a dunk off the assist from Moynihan to end the Brevard run as the Saints closed out the half with a 9-0 run to go into the break with 36-26 lead.
Hendrix scored the first six points of the second half and Vasiljevic added a layup off the assist from Dominique Pickett as the Tornados opened up the period with an 8-0 run, bringing the game back to within two at 36-34 less than three minutes into the half, but the Saints rallied back behind a pair of free throws by Moynihan and a Moynihan three-pointer started a 15-0 run by North Georgia as the Saints took a 49-34 lead with 12:48 to play in the game.
The Tornados held true to form in this topsy-turvy game, going on a 13-2 run of their own started by a pair of jumpers by Jermichael Tanner and Gerel Simmons and ending on back-to-back three-pointers by Hendrix as the Tornados cut the score back to within two points at 51-49 with 8:50 on the clock.
Three times Brevard was able to cut the lead down to one point as Chavis Hamilton put in a layup off a Brevard miss, Hendrix drove in for a layup and Schauss hit a three-pointer in the left corner, but North Georgia was able to rally from each Brevard charge, going on a final 9-1 run to take a 72-62 lead after the three-point play by Tinney with 35 seconds remaining and the Tornados were unable to make a final charge as BC fell in the season opener, 75-66.
Brevard closes out the Peach Belt/SAC Challenge tomorrow afternoon in Dahlonega, Ga. as they take on the University of Montevallo in the first game of the day. Tipoff between the Tornados and the Falcons is set for 2 p.m.