Vicksburg natives Strothers, Henyard lead Tougaloo to GCAC tournament title

Published 11:36 am Monday, February 27, 2023

JACKSON — Tougaloo College’s men’s basketball finished off a perfect run through its conference with a wild finish.

Andre Brunt hit one of two free throws with 0.5 seconds remaining as Tougaloo defeated Philander Smith 62-61 on

Saturday in the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference tournament championship game.

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Tougaloo (28-1), which is coached by Vicksburg native Eric Strothers — the GCAC Coach of the Year — won its second consecutive conference title. The Bulldogs also earned an automatic berth to the NAIA National Championship Tournament, and will likely host a first- and second round game March 7-8.

The NAIA will announced the tournament field on Thursday at 7 p.m. on its YouTube channel.

Former Warren Central star DeArius Henyard had nine points and three rebounds for Tougaloo in the GCAC championship game. His three-point play with just under seven minutes left put the Bulldogs ahead 54-46, but Philander Smith (22-6) rallied to tie the game at 61 on a putback by Raymond Reece with a half-second left.

Tougaloo inbounded the ball for a long heave at the buzzer, but Brunt was fouled before he could possess the ball and no time ran off the clock. Brunt was awarded two free throws. He missed the first but made the second to put Tougaloo ahead 62-61, and a desperation heave by Philander Smith was off the mark.

Tougaloo’s Cameron Copeland was named the tournament MVP and finished with 11 points in the championship game. Trajan Fielder had 11 points and nine rebounds, and Darryl Jones added eight points and nine rebounds. Brunt finished with four points.

Christione Rufus scored a game-high 15 points for Philander Smith and Reece had a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds.