SALISBURY — Wingate senior Odell Turner made the game-deciding shot with 2.6 seconds left, and Wingate senior Ethan Kincaid forced the pivotal five-count that set up Wingate’s winning possession.
It was a battles of the ages on Tuesday at Goodman Gym, and a veteran Wingate team that had five seniors playing a lot of minutes got the better of a youthful Catawba squad that relies heavily on two freshmen guards.
“I don’t know that we deserved to win this game,” relieved Wingate coach Brian Good said. “Catawba outplayed and outhustled us. We were fortunate that our seniors found a way to make some plays at the end.”
It was the SAC opener for both teams.
Lee Martin led Catawba (3-3) with 20 points. Elon Edwards, the freshman point guard, scored 12. Julian Sampah came off the bench to score 12 points with Catawba’s big men in foul trouble.
“I think we’re right there,” Catawba coach Jim Baker said. “We’re more explosive than last year. We’re more physical. We’re bigger. We’re close to being a good team.”
Both teams like to go up and down, but it was mostly a grinding halfcourt game that featured rugged man-to-man defense. Tyrece Little rejected four shots for the Indians.
Catawba took a 31-30 lead at halftime when Sampah beat the horn with a jumper.
Catawba appeared on the verge of taking control when it surged ahead 51-43 with 9:26 left on another jumper by Sampah, but Little got his third and fourth fouls rapidly, and the lead slipped away.
“Catawba played really well together for such a young team, ,” Kincaid said. “But we started playing better defense. We stopped gambling and played solid and we started getting the stops we needed.”
Turner’s dunk with 1:50 left tied the game at 60-all.
At the 1:16 mark, Edwards found a cutting Martin with a perfect bounce pass. Martin finished with a scoop, and Catawba led 62-60.
Senior Paidrick Matilus scored the equalizer for the Bulldogs (4-2) with 35 seconds left, and Kincaid forced a closely-guarded five-count against Edwards with 14 ticks remaining — Edwards’ 10th turnover of the contest.
Turner’s clutch bucket pushed Wingate ahead, and Catawba couldn’t get a shot off.
“We played really well until the last six possessions, but we’re going to have some growing pains,” Martin said. “It’s just November and we’re going to keep getting better.”
WINGATE (64) — Turner 15, Matilus 13, Daye 10, Kincaid 7, Turman 5, Alexander 5, Lewis 5, Parker 4, Gathings, Griffin.
CATAWBA(62) — Martin 20, Edwards 12, Sampah 10, Perkins 9, Little 4, Knight 4, Houston 3, Watson, Marijosius.
Wingate 30 34 — 64
Catawba 31 31 — 62