TIGERVILLE, S.C. - A 3-point basket by Georgia Southwestern junior Kevin Burnell with 25 seconds remaining proved to be the difference in a thrilling 68-67 victory in the Hurricanes season opener against North Greenville on Friday evening in Hayes Gymnasium.
The GSW defense held off North Greenville in the closing seconds as Patrick George missed a shot for the Crusaders with three seconds left on the clock.
It was a close game throughout as there were 16 lead changes in the game and neither side led by more than seven points.
After falling behind 10-7 to open the game, GSW went on a 10-0 run to take the largest lead of the night by either side, 17-10, with 13:18 left in the first half.
North Greenville answered with a 16-4 run of its own to regain momentum with six minutes until the break.
In the back-and-forth affair, it was only fitting that the Hurricanes responded with a 9-0 run to pull ahead, 30-26. A 3-pointer by senior Jamon Hawkins sparked the GSW run and another Hawkins 3-point basket allowed the Hurricanes to take a one-point lead into the halftime break (33-32).
Neither team was able to gain much of an edge over the opening nine-plus minutes of the second half as three points was the largest margin until Micah Parker dropped a jumper to put North Greenville ahead by five (50-45) with 10:36 to go.
Once again, the Hurricanes answered with a run. This time an 11-0 rally put GSW ahead by six points with 7:45 remaining.
The Crusaders would not go away, however, and after reeling off a 13-1 run of their own, North Greenville had its biggest lead of the night, 63-57, with 3:46 on the clock.
Trailing by four points with 1:38 left, GSW forced a North Greenville turnover and Hawkins came down and drained a quick 3-pointer to set up the Burnell heroics.
The two sides nearly mirrored each other in terms of shooting as GSW finished 43.5 percent (27 of 62) from the floor and 22.7 percent (5 of 22) from beyond the arc and North Greenville shot 44.3 percent (27 of 61) overall 27.3 (3 of 11) from 3-point range.
GSW held the advantage in points off turnovers (24-18) and bench points (20-13).
Southwestern had four players score in double figures as senior Alan Arnett led with 15 points. Newcomer Johathan Brooks posted a double-double in his debut with 10 points and 11 rebounds. Fellow newcomer Darius Redding shot 4 of 5 from the floor en route to his 11 points and Hawkins finished with 11.
Fittingly, North Greenville also had four players score in double figures. Chris Dean had a game-high 16 points and Phillip Brown added a double-double with 15 points and a game-high 14 boards.
The Hurricanes wrap up play at the Conference Carolinas/Peach Belt Conference Challenge on Saturday in an inaugural meeting with Erskine College at 5:30 p.m.