Nationally Ranked Trojans End Bobcats Season
The Lees-McRae College Bobcats basketball team traveled to Mount Olive Wednesday evening to take on the Trojans in quarterfinal play of the Carolinas-Virginia Athletic Conference Tournament but unfortunately returned to Banner Elk with a 101-74 loss.
The Trojans entered the game as the number two seed in the CVAC and ranked 25th in the nation while the Bobcats carried the number ten seed.
Maurice Horton led five players in double figures with 19 points on 8-for-9 shooting as the Trojans advance to the semifinal round against No. 3 seed Pfeiffer, a 94-74 winner over sixth-seeded Belmont Abbey.
The CVAC Tournament "Final Four" is hosted by Mount Olive Friday and Saturday. The semifinal contest between the Trojans and Pfeiffer is a rematch of the last two tournament championship games.
Mount Olive led by as many as 17 points in the first half after back-to-back baskets by Melvin Creddle capped a 16-2 run to give the Trojans a 24-7 lead with 13:39 left. Lees-McRae ended the run when Aaron Dugger (Elizabethton, TN) hit all three free throws on a three-shot foul.
After Montel Jones hit a lay-up for the Trojans, Lees-McRae scored the next 12 points as James Barbee's (Durham, NC) basket pulled the Bobcats within 26-22 with 8:46 left before halftime. Three-pointers by Chris Bartley and Elton Coffield helped build Mount Olive's lead back to double digits, but Henry Williams' (Kingsport, TN) lay-up with 4:38 remaining cut the lead to 37-30.
The Trojans then pulled away at the end of the half, connecting on each of its last four three-point attempts during the final four minutes as Coffield's three-pointer with 21 seconds remaining gave Mount Olive a 54-39 halftime lead. Four Trojan players reached double figures in the first half, led by Coffield, who scored all of his 14 points before the break.
Mount Olive hit 9-of-18 three-pointers in the first half, but Lees-McRae stayed within striking range by hitting 13-of-16 free throws, compared to 5-of-8 for the Trojans.
Lees-McRae cut the lead to 12 after Williams opened the second half with a three-pointer, but Bartley's three-pointer and Horton's alley-oop slam dunk capped an 11-3 run and built the Trojans' lead to 65-45 with 16:30 left in the game. Lees-McRae never got any closer than 17 points and Mount Olive put the game away with a 21-3 run to extend the lead to 87-52 with 8:47 remaining. The Trojans had their starters on the bench for most of the final nine minutes of the game.
Creddle finished with 14 points, nine assists and seven rebounds as Mount Olive out rebounded Lees-McRae 49-24. Bartley added 13 points and seven boards, while Paulius Dziugelis scored 10 points off the bench in the final 10 minutes.
Williams led four Lees-McRae players with 19 points, while Dugger added 15 points. Barbee finished with 13 points, seven assists and four steals, while Lansen Leach chipped in 10 points. Barbee and Dugger each went 7-for-7 from the free throw line.
Wednesday's game marked the second year in a row Mount Olive and Lees-McRae faced each other in the quarterfinal round. The contest was also Lees-McRae's fourth game this season on Mount Olive's home floor, having played two games in the Mount Olive Pickle Classic in November in addition to its regular season conference game.
The other two quarterfinal-round games both saw the home team escape with a close win. Top-seeded and nationally 12th-ranked Barton defeated No. 9 seed Coker 75-72, while No. 4 seed Limestone defeated No. 5 seed Queens 67-65.
The Bobcats finish the season with an overall record of 7-22
while going 4-16 in conference play.