College Basketball: Catawba 88, Mars Hill 81: Indians remain unbeaten in SAC
By Ronnie Gallagher
Dominick Reid found himself ahead of the pack as the final seconds ticked off. A layup would seal Catawba’s win against Mars Hill.
But that isn’t Reid’s style. The point guard knew a little ol’ layup wouldn’t compare to a grand slam by his buddy, Donald Rutherford.
So Reid pulled up short and flipped a pass back to Rutherford.
You know the rest.
The 6-foot-7 skywalker cocked that long arm and flushed Mars Hill’s hopes of upsetting the league’s top team. Catawba’s 88-81 win in Goodman Gym Saturday preserved a two-game lead for the Indians (13-3, 5-0).
“That was a statement to let them know we run the SAC right now,” Rutherford said. “I just wanted to put an (exclamation point) on that statement.”
The statement on Catawba is this. Everyone contributes.
Leading scorer Antonio Houston, the current SAC Player of the Week, went scoreless in the first half, missing all six of his shots, including a dunk. The result? Catawba was up 45-30 at haltime, thanks to 14 points by Reid, the 5-foot-10 sophomore.
Center Cliff Burns was out due to a foot injury. The result? Catawba outrebounded the taller Lions, thanks to the play of Rutherford, Isaac Rose and Finnur Magnusson.
“Everybody had to step up,” Reid said.
It may have been Catawba’s best first half of the season.
The 6-6 Rose did most of his damage early, finishing the half with eight of his 10 rebounds and seven of his nine points. Rob Fields and Reid combined for 25 of the team’s points, coming mainly on a variety of floaters and pull-up jumpers.
“We wanted to put them away quick because they’re a very athletic team coming off a big win at Lenior-Rhyne,” Reid said.
Mars Hill (10-5, 1-4) proved how athletic it was in the first seven minutes of the second half. Behind the play of guard Stoney Polite, the Lions stunned Catawba on a 26-10 run. Suddenly, the Indians found themselves trailing 56-55.
“It’s human nature,” Catawba coach Jim Baker said. “You get up big and you relax. But I’m not so sure we don’t play better when it’s tight.”
And tight it was from that point. There would be 14 lead changes in the final 12:50.
Houston finally found his touch, scoring 14 of his 18 points after Mars Hill took that one-point lead.
Houston’s two free throws gave Catawba the lead for good with 5:33 left, 74-73. Rutherford scored off assists from Donzell Williams and Reid. Houston’s baseline jumper put Catawba up 80-75.
Baker pointed to the defense late in the game. The 6-9 Magnusson blocked a couple of shots, muscled inside for several rebounds and even hit a free throw.
“Finnur caused some problems,” Baker said.
But it was Rutherford who came up big. On a set out-of-bounds play, he fired a full-court bomb to Fields for an 86-79 lead with 31 seconds left.
That left only Reid to make his final decision. Shoot or dish to Rutherford.
“I always look for him on the break,” Reid said with a grin. “I know he’ll finish with authority.”
Which the big fella did.
“We’re hungry, man,” Reid said. “Last year, we got off to a rough start but coach kept saying, ‘Championship.’ This year, we have the majority of our players back so we feel like nobody can beat us.”
NOTES: Catawba is ranked 14th in the nation in Division II. … Fields matched Houston with 18 points. … Reid finished with 16 points. … Rutherford scored 14 in just 21 minutes. … Rutherford said he and Polite are first cousins. “We were talking the whole game,” he laughed. … Catawba’s next two games are on the road.
MARS HILL (81) ó Coakley 19, Polite 18, Gore 14, Glen 11, Blake 7, Sanders 6, Brozos 2, Pickerin 2, Miller 2. CAtawba (88) ó Houston 18, Fields 18, Reid 16, Rutherford 14, Rose 9, Williams 7, Magnusson 3, Sossamon 3, Shoemaker.
Mars Hill 30 51 ó 81
Catawba 45 33 ó 88