Belgreen grad enjoying wild ride at UM

By Staff
Mike Self, Franklin County Times
Brian Pounders' first season at the University of Montevallo couldn't have been more exciting-and it's not over yet.
Pounders, a former basketball star at Belgreen High School who is now Montevallo's top assistant coach, is in Springfield, Massachusetts right now helping the Falcons (28-5) prepare for their Division II national quarterfinal game tonight against Central Missouri (30-3).
Montevallo carries a 19-game winning streak into tonight's game, which is scheduled to tip off at 5 p.m. CST.
"Obviously, when you've won 28 games, it's been a pretty good year," said Pounders, who graduated from Belgreen in 1998 and later served on Mark Gottfried's staff at Alabama for four years. "Winning 19 games in a row has been extremely tough, but at the same time it's also been very exciting. We've played well during that stretch, and we've had our share of good luck, too. You have to be a little lucky to win 19 in a row."
The most recent win in Montevallo's streak was by far the most thrilling. The Falcons won the South Region championship and clinched a berth in the Elite Eight last Tuesday when All-American forward Marcus Kennedy nailed a 40-foot shot at the buzzer to beat Eckerd 64-61.
"We were up two when we fouled one of their guys with 2.5 seconds left," Pounders said. "He made both free throws, and we were like, 'Okay, we're going to overtime.' Then we inbounded the ball to Marcus at about half-court. He took one dribble and put up a shot that went in at the buzzer. It was unbelievable."
Aside from sending the home crowd into a state of delirium, Kennedy's shot also garnered the Falcons a fair amount of national attention.
"We had about 1,000 students there that night, and about 2,500 fans in all," Pounders said. "It was a packed house. The game was all over the Birmingham News, and Marcus's shot was No. 2 on ESPN's Top 10 plays. They talked about it on Cold Pizza. Schools at our level are practically never on ESPN, so it was big-time for us. We were on cloud nine for two or three days, and the campus was really buzzing."
Kennedy, the Gulf South Conference and South Region Player of the Year, and fellow senior Greg Brown have been the driving force behind Montevallo's success, which didn't necessarily come easily.
The Falcons, ranked No. 2 in the preseason national poll, lost three straight games early in the season to fall to 9-5 and found themselves trailing by 18 in the first half at home against UAH.
"We knew we didn't want to lose four in a row," Pounders said. "We had a good little halftime talk, and our guys came out and played really hard in the second half. We ended up winning by 13 or 14. That game was a big turning point for us."
Montevallo rallied for an 86-73 win over the Chargers and hasn't lost since. Now they're just three victories away from winning a national championship to go along with their GSC and South Region titles.
"We shot the ball well in our first two games at the GSC Tournament," Pounders said. "We didn't shoot it that well in the championship game, because Henderson State guarded us pretty well. Then we didn't shoot it very well in any of our three games at the Regional. If we can get back to shooting the ball well up here and continue to play good defense, then we'll have a chance to win.
"We'll have our hands full, though. Central Missouri is very good."
Pounders said this season has provided him with a valuable learning experience as he continues to pursue his goal of becoming a head coach.
"It's been very exciting to be a part of a winning program here," he said. "These guys were expected to win this year because of the success they had the previous three years under Coach [Danny] Young. The bar had been set pretty high. It's exciting to be part of that type of atmosphere.
"Coach Young has done a great job here, and he's a great guy to work for. I've learned a lot from him this year. I'm looking forward to coming back next year and continuing to learn."

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