The Newberry Indians, picked to finish eighth in the preseason, proved all the doubters wrong by landing in the title game of the Food Lion South Atlantic Conference Basketball Tournament with wins over Presbyterian and Mars Hill. Newberry would come up short in its contention for the school’s first-ever SAC hoops title, falling to Catawba 81-68. Nonetheless, the 16 wins is the most by any Newberry hardcourt roster since the 1981-82 season. Its 14 regular season wins ties with the 1996-97 squad.
ROUND #1: Newberry 70, PC 62
The men made a crucial 12-0 run late in the second half to take a 70-62 victory over Presbyterian College in the first round of the Food Lion South Atlantic Conference tournament at Shuford Gymnasium on the campus of Lenoir-Rhyne College.
The Indians scored 12 unanswered points to take a 62-48 lead (its biggest of the day) on a lay-up by senior guard Rashaad Carter with 3:21 remaining in the contest. The Blue Hose didn’t quit, cutting the margin to five (62-57) on a three-point field goal by freshman guard Melvin Smith with 2:06 to play.
"The way our guys played today shows that we weren’t satisfied with the season we had (to this point)," Newberry College head coach David Conrady said. "We got a taste of success and enjoyed it . . . we had a great start today. We forced the tempo and forced turnovers."
Presbyterian would get no closer, as Newberry hit eight-of-10 free throws in the final 1:31 to keep the Blue Hose at bay. Four Indians hit double figures, led by senior forward Brandon Moses and his 15 points. Moses hit back-to-back three-point field goals to give Newberry a 45-38 lead with 9:58 to go.
Newberry sophomore guard Michael Dease contributed 14 points off the bench. Carter hit 12 points, while junior guard Elijah Frasier had 11 points, seven assists and seven steals. Newberry took the lead with 12:14 to play in the first half and never relinquished the advantage.
For Presbyterian, sophomore forward Michael Drum had 15 points, while freshman guard Melvin Smith had 13 points and five assists. Drum and Smith hit three three-point field goals each. Blue Hose freshman forward Grant Herren added 12 points, while sophomore guard Tray Ballenger chipped in 10 points off the bench.
In the first half, Carter hit a floater at the 5:23 mark to give the Indians a 26-17 lead. Newberry matched its nine-point advantage (33-24) on a three-point field goal by freshman forward Tommy Burke with 36 ticks left on the first half clock. The Indians led 33-26 at the break.
Presbyterian hit 69.2 percent (nine-of-13) of its first half field goals, but the Blue Hose made 12 first half turnovers. The Indians converted the PC miscues into eight points in the first frame.
Round #2: Newberry 79, Mars Hill 78
The No. 4-seeded Indians scored the final nine points to rally and defeat the eighth-seeded Mars Hill College Lions, 79-78, in the semifinals of the 2004 Food Lion South Atlantic Conference Basketball Tournament.
The Lions appeared to have control of the game, leading 78-70 with 1:48 left in regulation. However, senior guard Rashaad Carter (North Charleston, S.C.) nailed a three-pointer to begin the Indian comeback. Mars Hill committed four turnovers in the final 68 seconds of the game and Carter hit the game-winning free throw with 38 seconds left.
"We like to be a little up-tempo, so trying to come back from a deficit is not that difficult because we’re playing to our strength," Newberry coach David Conrady said. "We defended well the last two possessions."
Mars Hill, down 39-37 at intermission, went on a 24-12 at the start of the second half to take a 61-51 lead with 8:24 left, its biggest advantage of the contest.
Carter led the Indians with 24 points while redshirt freshman guard Tymere Zimmerman (Bennettsville, S.C.) added a double-double (11 points and 14 rebounds).
"We were picked to finish eighth in this league," Conrady said. "We’ve done some remarkable things. My hope when we came here was for them to experience March Madness. I’m thankful we were able to do that."
Finals: Newberry 68, Catawba 81
Newberry’s dream season was woken prematurely by the Indians of Catawba. Catawba pulled off its third straight upset at the Food Lion South Atlantic Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament, earning the league’s automatic bid into the NCAA II Regional with an 81-68 win over fourth-seeded Newberry at the Multipurpose Facility at Catawba Valley Community College on Sunday afternoon.
Tournament Most Valuable Player, Helgi Magnusson, recorded a double-double in the championship game with 20 points and 10 rebounds, while Catawba’s lone senior, Duke Phipps, added 19 points and three steals. Phipps, along with freshman Brian Graves (10 points, nine assists) joined Magnusson on the all-tournament team from Catawba. The nine assists by Graves set a championship game record.
The game saw five ties and a dozen lead changes in the opening half with Catawba holding a 37-35 edge at the break. Catawba never trailed after Brian Frasier’s jumper with 25 seconds left in the first stanza and would use an 8-0 run early in the second half to pull out to a 51-40 lead with 12:51 left.
Newberry could only get within nine the rest of the way as Catawba connected on five of its 10 three pointers in the final nine minutes to stay in front. Phipps hit on four shots behind the arc, while Magnusson added seven. Catawba shot 59 percent in the final half to just 43 percent for Newberry.
Tommy Burke led Newberry with 15 points, scoring a dozen in the opening half. Rashaad Carter followed with 13 and was named to the all-tournament team. Michael Dease and Tymere Zimmerman also reached double figures for Newberry with 12 and 10, respectively. Ronald Lewis, of Mars Hill, rounded out the all-tournament team.
"We had a hard time guarding. We didn’t force enough turnovers. I don’t know if we ever got the nerves out," said Newberry coach David Conrady. "Duke Phipps, the last time we played them, he had only two points. He’s shot the ball a lot better in this tournament."