Wingate 63, Catawba 61
By Mike London
The final four minutes of Wednesday’s SAC men’s basketball game seemed to last four hours to Catawba coach Jim Baker.
Leading by three with 4:22 remaining, Catawba came up empty on its last six possessions and lost to Wingate 63-61 at Goodman Gym.
“We knew all along it was going to come down to one stop,” said junior guard Justin Huntley, who led the Indians with 17 points. “Those last few possessions, they just didn’t go our way.”
Huntley’s all-round play, 17 combined rebounds from Stuart Thomson and Lee Martin and clutch shots by freshmen Keon Moore, Chris Tyree and Kejuan Mayo put Catawba in position to win, even without point guard Dominick Reid.
Reid sustained a concussion with five minutes left in the first half when he was decked by an illegal screen. The Indians trailed 29-23 when Reid, a senior who leads the team in scoring, rebounding, assists and experience, exited for good.
The Indians trailed the whole first half, but a 3-pointer by Moore and a reverse layup by Thomson helped them get to halftime down just 38-35.
Then Catawba (5-6, 1-2) tied it for the first time all night at 40-all on an acrobatic jumper by Huntley three minutes into the second half.
“Our morale went down a little at first when Dominick got hurt,” Huntley said. “But then we realized this is what it’s going to be like next year. We have some freshmen who can play, and it was not that bad a situation.”
The Indians took their first lead when Mayo made a jump hook for a 47-46 edge with 12 minutes to play. Catawba went up by four when Tyree knocked down a 3-ball 38 seconds later.
Ethan Kincaid, a cousin of former Catawba hero Donald Rutherford, knocked down a big 3-pointer for the Bulldogs (7-4, 2-1) to stop Catawba’s momentum, and then both teams dug in man-to-man in a grinding halfcourt struggle.
“We weren’t making shots, and Catawba wasn’t making them either,” said Wingate horse Odell Turner, who scored 19 points. “That’s when you have to strap it up and play defense and we were able to block some of their shots without fouling.”
Turner had two fouls very early, but Catawba couldn’t get the 6-foot-7 soph in serious trouble, and he was the dominant figure on the court down the stretch.
“Last year, if Odell had gotten two fouls early like that, he wouldn’t have been a factor the rest of the night,” Wingate coach Brian Good said. “He showed some signs of maturity and helped us get a really big road win. Catawba’s still very good. They’ve reloaded.”
The biggest play of the night, other than Reid’s injury, was a block Turner made with 5:26 remaining. Catawba led 59-54, and Martin had a layup to go up by seven, but Turner swatted Martin’s shot, then scored immediately on the other end.
Martin’s nice drive gave the Indians a 61-58 lead with 4:22 to go, but they didn’t score another point.
“The last few minutes were just an offensive horror show for us,” Baker said. “Every time I called a play, we were out of sync.”
Jaime Vaughn employed a solid screen by Turner to sink a tying 3-pointer with 3:54 remaining. Then Vaughn swished both ends of a one-and-one to put the Bulldogs ahead 63-61 with 2:18 left.
Wingate turned it over with 16 seconds left, but Martin slipped trying to make a move around Turner with four seconds to play, and Catawba was forced to foul.
Vaughn missed the free throw. Huntley soared for the rebound but his passing options were blanketed, and he never got a shot off. He lost the handle as he tried to spin past the halfcourt stripe, and it was all over.
“Even without Dominick we were right there,” Baker said with a sigh. “But close isn’t good enough.”
WINGATE (63) — Turner 19, Vaughn 19, Smith 10, Alexander 6, Kincaid 5, Matilus 2, Tankersley 2, Parker, Lewis, Carpenter.
CATAWBA (61) — Huntley 17, Moore 11, Thomson 10, Martin 8, Drakeford 4, Reid 4, Tyree 3, Mayo 2, Smogner 2, Lovelace.
Wingate 38 25 — 63
Catawba 35 26 — 61