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Samford holds off East Tennessee State 76-69 to win 1st Southern Conference Tournament championship

ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) — Achor Achor had 25 points and nine rebounds, Jermaine Marshall scored 23 and top-seeded Samford held off seventh-seeded East Tennessee State 76-69 to win the Southern Conference Tournament championship on Monday night and earn an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament.

Samford coach Bucky McMillan, who had never coached above the high school level, has the Bulldogs dancing four years after taking over the 321st ranked program. Samford is making its first trip to the Big Dance since 2000 and just its third overall.

The Bulldogs (29-5) extended the school record for victories by beating the Buccaneers (19-16), who were playing in the title game for the 13th time. ETSU was trying to advance to the NCAA tourney for a ninth time — by winning four games in four days.

Achor had a three-point play and a dunk as Samford jumped out to an 11-2 lead. ETSU missed 4 of 5 shots and turned the ball over three times in falling behind.

There were seven lead changes and seven ties by halftime. Achor had 17 points, Marshall scored 11 and Samford clung to a 40-38 advantage. ETSU was whistled for 16 fouls, Samford had 12 and that led to 38 free throws in the first 20 minutes. The Bulldogs sank 13 of 21, while the Bucs made 11 of 17. Just five Samford players scored, while ETSU had nine players score — led by Ebby Asamoah's nine.

Jaden Campbell hit back-to-back 3-pointers and Samford took its first three-possession lead since its game-opening run, 52-43 with 15:30 remaining. The Buccaneers closed within a point twice, the second at 65-64 on a jumper by Asamoah with 6:23 to go. Rylan Jones answered with a layup and Achor hit two foul shots to push the Bulldogs' lead to five.

Allen Strothers made the second of two free throws with 5:12 left to get the Buccaneers within 69-65. Neither team scored until Marshall's layup at the 2:22 mark pushed the Samford lead to six.

Asamoah finished with 18 points for ETSU. He finished 3 for 11 from beyond the arc, setting the new tourney mark with 17 3-pointers. Quimari Peterson scored 17.

Brooks Savage is one of five Bucs' coaches to lead the team to the tourney title game in his first season.

Samford was playing for the SoCon title for the first time since joining the conference in 2008.

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