Scots upset in first round of USA South Tournament

18-8 record gives high hopes for next season

After entering the USA South Conference Tournament as the first-seed, the Maryville College Fighting Scots were upset in the first-round by Greensboro College.

Despite their great effort and a pair of double-doubles from Jaumonee Byrd and Oscar Butler, the Scots’ hopes of a NCAA Tournament run came to a shocking halt in the 91-83 loss on Randy Lambert Court.

Six games into the 2013-14 season, the Scots appeared out of sync, standing at 1-5 with only four games left until the start conference play. A disappointing 2012-13 season in which the Scots posted their first losing record since 1986-87, followed by the rough start, provoked feelings of doubt for the future of the program.

The Scots went 3-1 in their next four non-conference games, putting them at 4-6 entering USA South Play.

If it were not for their mediocre non-conference record, the Scots may have earned an NCAA Tournament bid, which is given to teams that fail to win their conference with impressive records. Non-conference play is weighed heavily in the process.

Once USA South play began, the Scots started clicking. By mid-February, the Scots stood undefeated in the Conference at 11-0. They finished the regular season at 13-1 in the USA South, clinching the first-seed and the right to host the conference tournament.

The Scots’ outstanding turnaround was fueled by commitment, maturation and sacrifice.

Senior guard J.P. Burris excelled in his final year with the Scots, and his leadership and character played a key role in their success.

“I believe our buy-in to Coach Lambert and his system truly helped us turn it around. We started sharing the ball and playing as a team and, more importantly, we started playing good team defense which made a huge difference for us,” Burris said.

Burris’s commitment to the team involved much more than the plays he made. The senior was named to the All-Conference Sportsmanship team, and served as a role model for the younger players.

“I just tried to set a good example of what we wanted our team to portray. Work hard, play harder and always respect the game we love. I have always been better at trying to lead by example rather than vocally,” said Burris. “Oscar [Butler] was our vocal leader and just the combination of the two of us seemed to be pretty productive in trying to lead together.”

Junior wing Oscar Butler was named to the USA South Conference Second-Team, recording 12.9 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 2.3 APG, and 1.2 SPG.

In addition to Burris and Butler, many players throughout the roster stepped up this season, each assuming particular roles which benefitted their performance.

Sophomore center Byrd had a remarkable season and emerged as a dominant force for the Scots. Byrd almost doubled his production from last season, scoring 18.6 PPG and grabbing 9.0 RPG, earning the sophomore USA South Player of the Year and All-South Region First-Team honors.

“My performance this season was a result of changing my mindset and having a will to get better,” Byrd said. “Training my whole summer and staying in the weight room throughout the season gave me major strides in my game.”

Although Byrd appeared to be proud of his performance this season, he said that he still feels a need to improve his play next season.

“Individually, I want to take my game to a whole new level,” Byrd said. “I don’t want to just catch the ball in the post; I want to be able to create a pace for myself all the around the floor, to have the ball when its crunch time, and to stay consistent from the field.”

Burris felt that Byrd’s performance was vital this season, but also acknowledged the performances of several other players.

“I thought the whole team stepped up. J-Byrd had an amazing season as he was recognized as player of the year in the conference. O (Oscar Butler) had another great year making all conference. C-Ford (Christian Ford, 10.8 PPG, 4.2 APG) was one of the top players in assists and assist to turnover ratio in the nation (2.8 A/TO) and Shoff (Spencer Shoffner, 12.1 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 1.6 SPG) had a break-through year, showing what all he is capable of in an all-around game,” Burris said.

He also said Antonio Jackson had an impressive first year for the team, giving stability to the backcourt off the bench. Burris saved his the only other Scots’ senior for last.

”Finally, I would say Craig (Raye). I thought Craig had a great senior year and final run; he played well all year, and I think he is definitely able to look back on this year and his career and be proud.”

While the Scots will certainly miss the experience of both Burris and Raye next season, their ample stock of returning talent gives the program high expectations for next season.

After experiencing a rough patch in the Lambert era of Maryville College men’s basketball, the Scots appear to be back on track, with the hopes of making some serious NCAA Tournament noise next year.

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