Bobcats Season Ends in Heartbreak

Down 72-70 with 16 seconds left, Belmont Abbey's Anthony Bell calmly sank three free throws, and the Crusaders held on for dear life as Lees-McRae's last second shot fell off the top of the backboard, as the eighth-seeded Crusaders advanced to the quarterfinal round of the 2007 CVAC Tournament with a 73-72 win over the ninth-seeded Bobcats Monday evening. The Abbey improves to 8-19 while the Bobcats end their season with a record of 6-22.

With the Abbey leading 66-65 with 3:25 left in regulation, Lees-McRae scored the next four points, layups by Aaron Dugger and Mike Fox, to give the Bobcats a 69-66 lead. It held the advantage, never building its lead any higher than three points, until there were 16 seconds remaining. A free throw by Dugger pushed the Bobcats lead back to two points after a layup by Sidney Hoff.

On the ensuing Abbey possession, Bell took a pass at the top of the key with 16 seconds left and went up for a shot, however the Bobcats Henry Williams was called for a foul. In the silence of the arena, Bell swished home three free throws to give the Crusaders its first lead since the 3:25 mark.

After both teams used their final timeouts, the Bobcats set up one final play with 12 seconds left. Dugger took a pass and drove from the top of the key to the right side of the basket and let fly a high arcing shot that hit the top of the backboard and fell off, allowing the Crusaders to advance.

The game opened with the Crusaders in control from the opening tip, as it led for most of the half. Tied at eight with 16:28 left in the stanza, the Abbey went on a 20-6 run to build a lead of 28-14 with 9:24 left. The barrage included six three point field goals, two by Bell, two by Karl Bauza and one by Brooks Beard. The Bobcats countered with a 22-7 run, culminating with a three-pointer by Dugger, giving Lees-McRae its first lead of the contest at 36-35 with 1:45 left. The Abbey would score last in the half, as Ric Marczenko took a feed from Bauza and converted a layup with 50 seconds left to give the Crusaders a 37-36 halftime advantage.
Lees-McRae scored the first basket of the half to briefly regain the lead, but the Crusaders answered with a 12-2 run, using three-pointers by Jonathan Jackson and Beard, and a pair of layups by Jackson and Hoff to give the Abbey a nine-point edge at 49-40 with 15:48 to play. The Crusaders held the lead for the next 9:42 until the Bobcats tied the game at 59 with 5:33 remaining.

The Crusaders were leading 59-53 with 7:26 left before Lees-McRae embarked on a 6-0 run to knot the contest at 59. Beard gave the Abbey the lead again with a layup, but the Bobcats answered with a layup to tie, followed by a free throw to give them a one-point advantage at 62-61 with 4:23 left. The two teams would trade baskets, and with the Crusaders down two with 3:25 left, Bell drained a three-pointer, giving the Abbey the lead for the 13th time. The Bobcats would continue to claw their way back into the game as Dugger, (pictured top left) and Fox hit consecutive layups to stretch the lead to 69-66. Hoff would pull the Abbey within one with a layup, but Dugger stretched the advantage to 71-68 with two free throws. Hoff again cut it to one with a layup, and after Dugger's free throw with 26 seconds left, the stage was set for Bell's game ending heroics.

Bell and Hoff led four Crusaders in double figures as the pair finished with 16 points each. Jackson finished with 12 points and Beard added ten as the Abbey shot 45.8 percent (27-59) from the field.

Lees-McRae was led by Williams' 23 points, while Dugger added 21 and eight rebounds. The Bobcats shot 42.2 percent (27-64) from the field.

Seniors Dugger, Fox, and Williams all played their final games in Bobcat uniforms.