CHATTANOOGA — Using a powerful inside scoring attack, the Lee Flames outscored long-time rival Tennessee Temple 13-4 to open the second half and improved to 17-4 after a convincing 95-73 victory.
The Flames held only a 40-34 lead at the half. In fact, Temple made only 9-of-19 free-throw attempts in the half, or it might have been a different story at the break.
The Crusaders (8-12) were outscored 55-39 in the second stanza and proved to be no match for Lee. The margin grew to 25 points (90-65) with just under three minutes remaining.
“It is always good to leave Tennessee Temple with a victory,” said coach Tommy Brown. “This is a game that the older Lee fans expect to win.” The victory was the sixth straight for the Flames and their ninth in their last 10 appearances.
Lee’s balanced attack was paced by Jerel Blocker who scored 24 points. The senior made 10-of-14 shots from the field. He also picked up five rebounds and two assists. Antonio Haymon posted a career high of 21 points in his first start of the season. He also had eight rebounds and was 9-of-13 shooting from the floor.
Larriques Cunningham tallied 15 points to go along with a team-leading nine rebounds. He also collected five assists and blocked four shots. Stephen McClellan rounded out Lee’s double-figure scoring with 13 points. He canned three 3-pointers and added a pair of assists.
However, it was the all-around play of sophomore Brice Sharp that drew praise from coach Brown. “In my opinion, he was the player of the game. His stat line (four points, five rebounds and six assists) will not show it, but Brice was outstanding on defense and did an excellent job of running our offense tonight.”
The Flames continued their superb overall shooting, making 35-of-63 shots from the field (56 percent). “We were able to post Temple up most of the game,” allowed Brown. “We moved Haymon inside and he also proved to be a difference maker. However, we gave up way too many easy baskets on the defensive end.”
The Crusaders constantly penetrated Lee’s defense and found plenty of success in the opening half. They also grabbed eight offensive rebounds in the first 20 minutes, but the Flames allowed only five offensive boards in the final frame.
Ed Pellot-Rosa paced the Temple scoring with 22 points. Kenny Spotwood had nine of his 15-point total in the first half. Joe Quinn came off the bench to finish with 10 markers. Guard Jarrett Smith led the Crusader rebounding with seven. The Flames won the battle of the boards 43-32.
Coach Brown and his Flames must turn their attention to a huge SSAC battle with Shorter University on Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m. The Hawks picked up a 79-64 road victory over Brewton-Parker on Thursday evening. While the Flames are 5-0 in league play, Shorter probably considers this a must-win situation with a 2-2 conference mark.
At 2 p.m., the Lady Flames will try to remain perfect in SSAC play as they face the Lady Hawks of Shorter.