Raiders’ comeback falls short

It was a valiant effort.

As many fans and tournament personnel commented after the game, it was one of the best comeback efforts they had ever seen at the NCAA DI men’s basketball tournament.

The Roane State Raiders fought their way back from a 22-point deficit to cut the Butler Grizzlies’ lead to three.

Unfortunately, the effort was not enough to earn an upset victory and the team’s first win in the big dance.

In a charged atmosphere that would rival many NCAA tournament games, the Raiders put their hearts and souls into an effort to extend their magical season just one more game.

After falling behind by as many as 22 points three times in the first half, the Raiders went on a 27-9 tear to open the second period to pull within three points of the Grizzlies, 56-53.

The run was halted by a Butler timeout with 9:57 remaining in the game, followed by a media timeout only eight seconds later.

The timeouts were enough to snatch the momentum away from the Raiders, who would be outscored 29-13 through the remainder of the game, ultimately losing by 85-66.

Butler scored the first five points of the game and never trailed.

In the first half, the Grizzlies were an unheard of 70-percent (7-10) from three-point range and shot 58.6-percent from the floor.

Conversely, the Raiders were only 32.1-percent shooting in the opening frame, including a 2-9 effort from beyond the arc.

Butler took a 47-27 lead to the halftime locker room, and may have been content to sit on its laurels early in the second period before the men from Roane exploded and nearly tied the game at the 9:57 mark.

Raiders freshman guard Sebastian Tidor (the reigning Appalachian District Freshman of the Year) led the Raiders in the contest with 17 points.

Sophomore forward Cearius Warren, the Appalachian District Defensive Player of the Year, ended his career at Roane State with another double-double with 15 points and 13 rebounds. It was Warren’s 11th double-double of the season.

Roane State ends the season at 23-9, which may be the team’s best record ever – certainly the best in recent memory.

This was the second trip for the Raiders to the national tournament, with their first coming last season.

In the past two years, Roane State teams have participated in five NCCAA national tournaments.

After a four-decade hiatus, men’s golf returned to the national stage the past two seasons.

Men’s basketball has repeated visits at the big dance in Hutch, while men’s and women’s cross country teams sent representatives to the national championships last fall.

It is efforts like these that verify the fact that RSCC athletics is intent on becoming a new power player in both the TCCAA and NJCAA.