Ford scored from all angles as the Flames went on a 25-4 run early in the second half and destroyed any hopes of an upset by the visiting Bears. Lee jumped out to an early 18-2 lead only to see Truett-McConnell cut the margin to 39-33 at the half on a last-second shot by guard Thierry Fredric.
While Ford was knocking down a pair of 3-point shots and hitting 8-of-9 free throws, Tyquan Roberts was converting 8-of-11 shots from the field, including a power dunk in the second half run. The junior post player finished with 18 points and five rebounds in only 16 minutes of playing time.
“We didn’t know until 5 p.m. today if Tyquan would be allowed to play,” said coach Tommy Brown. “He’s been battling an injury since the Young Harris tournament. He sure didn’t show any effects of the injury when he went over the Truett-McConnell player for the dunk.”
Brown went on to praise the play of Ford. “We played him 35 minutes, but he seems to get better with the extended minutes. I think he excited the fans with his dunk.” The former Notre Dame standout broke free for what appeared to be an easy layup but used all 5-foot-6 of his body to put down the dunk.
Lee’s season-leading scorer, Corey Billingsley, was held to only four points in the first half but played a solid overall game in the second 20 minutes. He finished with 14 points, five assists and three blocks. The former Sweetwater High School star was 5-of-5 from the charity stripe.
Valentino Thomas paced the Flames in the early going. The junior, who also had a dunk, tallied 10 of his 14 markers in the opening 20 minutes. He also collected seven rebounds as Lee outrebounded the Bears 35-24. Chad Lee rounded out the double figure scoring with 10 points. He hit a pair of 3-pointers and paced the Flames in rebounding with eight.
Lee shot a season-high 56 percent from the field and converted four of its six shots from behind the arc in the early first-half surge. The Flames marched to the free-throw line 37 times and canned 28 (76 percent).
“I wanted to get several of our younger players into the contest but Truett-McConnell kept closing the gap,” noted Brown. “I worried about our conditioning in the second half, especially since we hadn’t played in a game in two weeks.”
The Bears got a strong second-half effort from their leading scorer Andretti Loyd, who tallied 18 of his 20 points in the second stanza. Fredric added 16 points and J’Qauveon Williams got into early foul trouble but still managed 11 points and eight rebounds.
Lee outscored the Bears 44-26 in points in the paint and also had a 30-23 in point production from players off the bench. However, TMC shot 46 percent from the field and made 9-of-23 3-pointers. “We worked on using a little zone defense in practice, but I didn’t feel we were quite ready to use it tonight,” said the Lee coach.
The Flames will move into Gulf South Conference action next Monday night and play host to West Florida. They will close out the pre-Christmas schedule one week from Thursday against Valdosta State.