By Blue Moutain College
BLUE MOUNTAIN, Miss. — Two improved Blue Mountain College teams open their TranSouth Athletic Conference season here Thursday night against nationally ranked and perennial power Freed-Hardeman University.
The Lady Toppers (4-7) will face the NAIA’s sixth-ranked Lady Lions (11-3) in the 6 p.m. opener and the BMC (6-7) men take on No. 25 FHU (8-6) in the nightcap.
Erin Parrish leads the BMC women in scoring with a 16.5 per game average – fifth place among TSAC scorers – while Joy Pierce is averaging 12.2 and Jordan McCormick is scoring 11.2 points and pulling down 7.2 rebounds per game.
The BMC-FHU matchup will feature two of the league’s leading inside players: the Lady Toppers’ Samantha Burns and the Lady Lions’ Meribeth Boehler. Burns averages 8.8 points a game, but is fifth in rebounds with a 6.7 per game average and leads the TSAC in blocked shots at 2.7 per game. Boehler is the league’s leading scorer (23.8), third-leading rebounder (9.1) and fifth-leading shot-blocker (1.2).
The Lady Toppers dropped a last-second, 69-68, thriller to Williams Baptist College earlier this week and a week ago lost in overtime, 75-72, to Brenau University. Coach Lavon Driskell said the losses stung, but they’ve also made BMC a better team.
“We’ve lost some close ones but we’ve also won a couple of close ones,” Driskell said. “We’ve said all along we’re going to be able to do some things in the conference this year that we haven’t been able to in the past, and we’re excited about starting league play.”
The Toppers have shown the most improvement of any team in the TranSouth this year – all because, first-year J.D. Parker said, his team has bought into a completely new style of play.
“Our whole outlook is built around defense,” said Parker. “We’re playing really hard, especially on defense, and it’s paid off for us. We’ve still got a long way to go, but we’re eager to get started in the conference. It’s a strong conference and it won’t take very long to find out where we stand.”
Now in its fourth season of intercollegiate play, the transformation is striking. In its previous three years, BMC won only three games and was outscored by an average of 24.7 points per game. Already the winners of six games in 2010-2011, the Toppers have been outscored by an average of 1.8 points per game.
One of the most telling statistics: In the 3 previous seasons BMC attempted 32.7 three-point field goals per game. So far this year, the Toppers have attempted 16.3 three-pointers.
The Toppers rank No. 3 in the TSAC in scoring defense, giving up only 68.92 points a game, while the Lions are No. 4 at 69.57 per game.
LaKendrick McCullum leads BMC in scoring with a 12.6 per game average, and is second in the conference (behind Mid-Continent’s Chris Ferguson) in rebounds at 10.8 per game and double-double games with seven.
Renell Collins is scoring 11.5 points a game for the Toppers and Josh McCalmon, 9.5 points a game, is third in the conference with 2.8 steals per game.