Late in the game there is no doubt who is going to make plays for the ETSU Buccaneers. Against Campbell Wednesday night, Mike Smith, the unanimous Atlantic Sun Conference Player of the Year, contributed on the last 13 points for the Bucs with 11 points and a spectacular assist for an Isiah Brown dunk.
The fifth-year senior averaged 16.9 points per outing this season, but the most important play he made in the quarterfinal showdown against the Camels came on the defensive end. With ETSU up by one and Campbell clinging to a chance to upset the second-seeded Bucs, Smith came away with a steal from Camels point guard Junard Hartley to clinch the fifth-straight semifinal appearance for the team from Johnson City.
“I’m one of the leaders of this team so I just wanted to play great for them and the team got the ball into my hands late and I just tried to make plays to help us win. With the game on the line at the end I needed to step up and I was in the right place at the right time and came away with the steal.”
The steal, one of four for Smith on the night, complete an all-around game for the Vandalia, Mo., native, who finished with 24 points, six rebounds and three assists.
As great as Smith was in the game for the Bucs, he did not carry them on his own as fellow seniors Micah Williams added nine points and seven rebounds, while Brown, a junior, added seven points, eight rebounds, four blocks and three steals.
“When you have seniors that have been here before in these kind of situations and have been to the NCAA (Tournament) it’s great for your confidence to have that experience and it really helps your momentum in the tournament.”
The Bucs, who have won their last seven A-Sun Championship games, now face the winner of the River City showdown between No. 3 Jacksonville and No. 6 UNF, who play at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday. Whomever the opponent, Smith and ETSU will be ready for their next opponent at the beginning of the game and at the end.