|March 04, 2009||1st||2nd||1OT||Final|
|Stats at a Glance||MHCM||NEWM|
|FG Percentage||.455 (40-88)||.625 (35-56)|
|3P FG Percentage||.333 (10-30)||.385 (5-13)|
|FT Percentage||.765 (13-17)||.800 (32-40)|
Goodwell - 2
Martin - 2
NEWBERRY, S.C. - The second-seeded Newberry College men's basketball team will advance to the 2009 Food Lion South Atlantic Conference Tournament semifinals after a hard-fought 107-103 victory over seventh-seeded Mars Hill College in Eleazer Arena on Wednesday night.
Newberry (21-7 overall) will face third-seeded Tusculum College in the semifinal matchup at 8 p.m. Saturday in Hickory, N.C., at the Catawba Valley Community College Arena. The trip to Hickory will be just the third SAC Tournament Semifinal berth in school history for Newberry. Mars Hill ends its season at 17-11 overall.
Newberry was led by 32 points and nine rebounds from senior forward Clemente Martin (Freeport, Bahamas), who played his final game in Eleazer Arena. Sophomore Jesse Wheeler (Suwanee, Ga.) scored 24 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with no points bigger than the long distance three-pointer he drained with 1.9 seconds on the clock in regulation to tie the game and send it to the extra frame.
Brett Goodwell (Inglewood, Calif.) added 17 points and eight rebounds, with Grant Domsic (Winter Garden, Fla.) rounding out double-digit scorers with 16 points. Matt Alexander (Atlanta, Ga.) scored seven points, dished out eight assists and grabbed five rebounds in his final home game.
The scarlet and gray shot a season-high 62.5% from the field (35-of-56), while also shooting a stellar 32-of-40 (80.0%) from the charity stripe, including connecting on 11-of-12 free throw opportunities in the overtime period. The Lions attempted 32 more shots than the scarlet and gray and were 40-of-88 from the field (45.5%) and 13-of-17 (76.5%) from the free throw line.
Newberry's 107 points marks the most points the scarlet and gray have scored against a conference foe since joining the league in 1997. It is also the fourth-highest single-game point total in SAC Tournament history. It was the second most for approximately 15 minutes tonight before Lenoir-Rhyne pulled out a 111-109 overtime victory over Carson-Newman.
Mars Hill had three 20-plus scorers, led by 25 points from P.J. Gore (North Myrtle Beach, S.C.). Danny Sanders (Shelby, N.C.) netted 23 points and Stoney Polite (Morganton, N.C.) scored 20 points off of the bench. Jamarl Glen (District Heights, Md.) scored 13 points and grabbed a team-high eight boards and Akeene Coakley (Mount Pleasant, S.C.) rounded out double-digit Lions with 12 points.
The first half was a see-saw affair, with Newberry only able to extend its lead to six points on three occasions in the opening period. A Wheeler layup with 16:19 left in the half gave Newberry a 13-7 lead that was whittled down to one point at the 13:33 mark on a Polite triple. Newberry pushed back out to a six point advantage at the 10:13 mark when Kendrick Johnson (Orangeburg, S.C.) scored in the paint to make it 24-18. MHC immediately responded with a Polite three-pointer and jumper to narrow the margin back to one point with 9:07 till the break.
Gore's layup with five minutes to play put the Lions up for the first time since the opening moments of the contest at 30-29, but the one-point lead would be as far as Mars Hill could sneak ahead before being reeled back in by the scarlet and gray. Newberry closed the half on a 5-0 run capped by a pair of Wheeler free throws to take a 44-38 lead to the locker room.
Newberry raced out of the gates in the second half, connecting of five of its first six field goal attempts in the period. In the first four and a half minutes of the second half, Newberry outscored the Lions by a 13-2 margin, with Domsic's trifecta at the 15:31 mark giving Newberry its largest lead of the game at 57-40.
The Lions did not pack up though, employing a high-pressure defense that helped them force 26 Newberry turnovers in the game. Mars Hill - which leads the country in steals per game - stole the ball 18 times, establishing a new SAC Tournament record. Over the next five minutes, the Lions went on a 24-10 capped by Coakley's three-point play, which cut Newberry's lead to three points a 67-64.
Newberry pushed back out to as many as eight points ahead at 78-70 with 5:12 left in regulation, but the Lions clawed their way back to tie the game at 87-all with under half a minute to play. After a Newberry timeout, Sanders forced a steal and took it to the rack, giving Mars Hill its first lead of the half at 90-87 with under 10 seconds to play after the three-point play.
Wheeler could not have turned from goat to hero any quicker. After giving up the ball and the foul which put Mars Hill ahead, Wheeler took a pass outside the three-point arc, turned to his right and canned the most important three-pointer of the night with 1.9 seconds remaining to tie the game at 90-all and send it to the extra frame.
In the overtime period, free throw shooting was the crucial deciding factor that elevated Newberry to the SAC Tournament Semifinals for the first time in five years. The scarlet and gray were sent to the charity stripe 12 times, connecting on 11 of those chances. Goodwell and Martin each completed three-point plays, and though Mars Hill narrowed the margin to two points in the final seconds, the momentum had swung to the hosts and the victory was theirs.
Newberry now faces Tusculum in the SAC Tournament Semifinals. The Pioneers defeated Wingate, 64-53, in tonight's quarterfinal. Newberry and TC split the season series this year, with each team winning on its home floor.