Catawba 90, Cheyney State 82
By Mike London
MISENHEIMER ó Back-to-backs is a tough way to open a basketball season, but Catawba’s drained squad hobbled out of Merner Gym with a championship on Monday.
Led by tournament MVP Rob Fields’ 23 points, Catawba outlasted equally weary Cheyney 90-82 to win the Highway 52 Shootout.
“We beat two good teams here by sticking with what Coach (Jim) Baker said and just grinding it out,” all-tournament pick Donald Rutherford said. “We showed a lot of heart and resilience just to get by Livingstone in the first round. I felt tired and flat all day today, but Coach was counting on us to keep pushing. We did.”
Antonio Houston scored 22 points for the Indians. Donzell Williams showed defense has its place. He scored two points but made all-tournament because he and teammate Justin Huntley contained Cheyney guard Sharif Bray, who lit up Pfeiffer for 33 points.
Bray had 24 more on Monday, but he shot 7-for-21 from the floor. Catawba (2-0) could live with that.
“Bray has range on his jumpshot and is very good at drawing fouls,” Williams said. “I just wanted to make sure he had to work hard for every shot. My goal is always to make my man have more attempts than points, and I almost accomplished that.”
Early, it looked like Catawba might not have to work quite so hard. It put together a 13-0 run midway through the first half for a 31-16 lead. Cameron Lovelace began the run with a 3-pointer. Houston swished a 3-pointer in transition to cap it.
In between, freshman big man Stephen Coles made a jump hook, Fields fed Houston for a layup, and Rutherford scored on a fastbreak.
That flurry enabled Catawba, which shot 55 percent for the game, to hold a 44-35 edge at the break.
“Maybe this is a game we should’ve won by 15, but I subbed too much, put some strange combinations out there and maybe messed us up a little bit,” Baker said. “I think we’re pretty deep and really wanted to get a lot of guys in there. Our young guys have got to get some experience. It’s a very long season.”
It was a very long second half, with both teams fighting dead legs. Cheyney came out stronger in the second half, caught up and inched ahead. The Wolves led 61-60 with 11:40 remaining, but that would be the last lead for the Pennsylvanians.
With 9:10 remaining, Rutherford got the ball to Houston, and he drilled a huge shot from deep on the right side, inches from the Catawba bench. It was a shot only a great scorer would take ó or make. It gave the Indians some separation and a 69-62 lead.
“My teammates count on me to step up at times like that and I credit my teammates for finding me,” Houston said.
Houston was almost shaking hands with the coaches when he made that shot, and Baker must have seen something in his eyes ó something that said, “I’ll take over now.”
Catawba’s next two scores came on inside buckets by Houston, the first on a nice pass from Coles on a set backdoor play.
Back inside, the 6-foot-4 Houston earned two free throws and nailed both. With 5:35 remaining, he went down low yet again. This time he drew another foul, and Kevin Presbery, who represented Cheyney on the all-tournament team along with Bray, fouled out. When Presbery expressed displeasure with the call, a technical was tacked on.
Four free throws by Houston later, Catawba led 77-68 and was pulling away.
There was 2:28 remaining when Fields slithered into the lane, got caught in in traffic and still double-pumped in a bucket for an 84-75 lead. That just about sealed it.
“That play is something we work on,” Fields said with a smile. “I was really trying to draw contact for free throws there, but I had to adjust and make a tough shot.”
He made tough shots for two days straight and earned his MVP plaque.
“It was a tough way to start off with two games here,” Baker said. “But our guys showed they really wanted to win this.”
Cheyney (82) ó Bray 24, Petty 11, Kennedy 10, Townsend 9, Presbery 9, Brazzle 7, Blassingame 5, Inge 4, Matos 3, Sanders. CATAWBA (90) ó Fields 23, Houston 22, Rutherford 14, Coles 8, Reid 8, Huntley 6, Lovelace 5, Martin 2, Williams 2, Thomson, Shoemaker, Drakeford.
Cheyney 35 47 ó 82
Catawba 44 46 ó 90