CIAA Basketball: Welch makes big plays in Livingstone win over Shaw
SALISBURY — When you have teammates like Mark Thomas, Tyler Johnson and Jody Hill, the spotlight is never your’s alone.
But Livingstone reserve Anthony Welch did a pretty good job distinguishing himself Saturday night at Trent Gym, where he made a series of pivotal baskets in a feverish 96-89 CIAA victory against Shaw.
“Those guys make our team go,” Welch said after leading the Blue Bears (16-5, 8-4) to their third win in the last four games. “My role is to come off the bench and keep that pace up.”
Welch — a 6-foot-5 junior college transfer from Chicago — knocked down a couple of late-game 3-pointers that made Shaw (13-9, 7-5) go home empty-handed. He shot 6-for-8 from the field and harvested 16 points, seven rebounds and four assists from just 13 minutes of playing time.
“Anthony has always been able to do that,” LC coach James Stinson said. “It’s just a matter of him playing behind some other people. He’s had to be patient and when opportunity arrives, he has to be able to take advantage of it.”
The same held true for the rest of the Blue Bears, who went from 12 points down to 12 up in a 13-minute race to the finish line.
“They were hungry at key moments of the game,” fifth-year SU coach Cleo Hill said. “Whenever we thought we had control, they fought back and took it from us.”
Livingstone trailed 51-47 after a defenseless first half, then fell behind 69-57 when Shaw’s Andre Paulk parlayed a turnover into a fastbreak layup with 12:26 to play. It capped a 16-4 run and — after battling the 2011 CIAA champs all night — x-rays of LC’s future appeared negative. Or did they?
“We’ve been in situations worse than that,” Welch said afterward. “We knew there was enough time to chip away, play by play.”
Thomas, the even-keeled junior who led all scorers with 25 points, agreed.
“We just had to get it together,” he said after converting 8 of 13 field goal attempts, including three 3-pointers. “(Welch) made some big shots, but they were all big in the second half. Anthony’s threes, Jody’s jumper from the side and (Ethan) Anderson’s layup and free throws.”
LC’s comeback began when Hill launched a 3-ball from right corner, and continued when Thomas made a three-point play. The hosts pulled even when Johnson, entangled and seated on the floor, hand-slapped a pass to Hill, who swished a short jumper from the right baseline. “Who else makes that play?” Stinson wondered.
For their next trick, Anderson gained an inside step and gave the Blue Bears a 76-74 lead — their first since the opening minute — with 5:33 remaining.
“They showed up at the right time and stepped up like big-time players do,” said Junious Chaney, Shaw’s 6-8 power forward. “They really outhustled us, beat us to 50-50 balls and started hitting threes out of nowhere.”
Perhaps none were more consequential than the two that Welch made. First, he took a no-look pass from Thomas and connected from the left side, providing an 81-76 Livingstone lead with 4:16 to play. A minute later he delivered a home run ball from the top of the key, restoring a five-point edge.
“Those threes,” Thomas said with a post-game grin. “That’s what pushed us over the top.”
Thomas added his final bucket, another 3-pointer, to make it 87-79. And Welch’s last hurrah was an uncontested, last-minute layup against Shaw’s press. “They want to press,” he reasoned. “You make a cut pass and move. You keep attacking.”
With two wins over Shaw and another against defending league champ Winston-Salem State, the Blue Bears are suddenly a team that can’t be ignored.
“Oh, this is for real,” Welch concluded. “It has been since Day 1. This is no phony.”SHAW (89) — Hines 18, Chaney 16, McCoy 13, Dortch 11, Abdur-Rahim 8, Hunter 7, Harper 6, Paulk 5, Savoy 5, Mitchell, Thomas.
LIVINGSTONE (96) — Thomas 25, Hill 16, Welch 16, King 7, Bailey 6, Ford-Bey 6, Espinoza 6, Anderson 5, Flint 5, T.Johnson 4, Godlock, D.Johnson.Shaw 51 38 — 89Livingstone 47 49 — 96