SAC Basketball: Catawba 87, Mars Hill 77: Indians earn last berth in SAC tournament

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 22, 2012

By Ronnie Gallagher
SALISBURY — Fans coming to see a shootout between the South Atlantic Conference’s top two scorers got to see a blowout instead as Catawba defeated Mars Hill 87-77 on Wednesday night at Goodman Gym in a final that wasn’t that close.
“I’m proud of them,” Catawba coach Jim Baker said of his team. “We had to win to get in.”
He was referring to next week’s SAC tournament. The Indians (8-17, 5-12) were tied with Brevard going in last night for the last spot.
Brevard lost to Newberry in overtime. Catawba gets the berth even if they tie because it has beaten Brevard twice.
While the SAC’s leading point-producer Sammy Emile and Indians’ star Keon Moore combined for 63 points (33 by Moore), Baker’s club gave Moore a lot more help.
Justin Huntley was all over the place. The 6-foot-3 guard scored 16 points, grabbed 12 rebounds, dished out five assists and even blocked a shot. Stuart Thomson leaped above the rim to score 14. Cameron Lovelace, averaging 5.1 points, scored 10 in 19 minutes.
Lovelace drilled a 3 to end the first half, giving Catawba a 43-34 lead. Moore hit five early threes.
But Baker was beaming over 12 assists on 15 baskets, four of the dishes by Huntley.
“That’s been our downfall all year,” he said. “But we moved the ball around. Of course, when the (shots) are going in, it makes it look a lot better.”
Catawba kept a sizeable margin over Mars Hill (5-21, 3-14) most of the second half.
“Catawba’s such a good rhythm team,” said Mars Hill coach Thomas Nash. “When they play in rhythm offensively, they score really well.”
Late in the game, it became Showtime at Goodman.
Up 81-65, Moore tossed a lob to the high-flying Thomson for a highlight-reel flush. After Moore hit two free throws, he grabbed a perfect lob from Huntley and jammed it home. Moore finished 11-for-16.
“Keon played like a pro,” Baker gushed. “He let it come to him. He didn’t fight it. I don’t think he took a bad shot all night long.”
As far as Emile, he was a non-factor in the second half. His first basket came with only 2:11 left and his team trailing by 20. Scoring the game’s last nine points meant nothing except padding his average.

NOTES: Moore, only a sophomore, went over 1,000 for his career. … Center Tyrece Little tied the school’s season record for blocked shots (79) but didn’t get to break it because he was ejected with about 10 minutes left. … Coming in, Emile was averaging 25.1 and Moore 21.0.
MARS HILL (77) — Emile 30, Harris 18, King 9, Khouraichi 7, Paton 5, Kostic 4, Cunningham 2, Maret 2.
CATAWBA (87) — Moore 33, Huntley 16, Thomson 14, Lovelace 10, Drakeford 5, Strickland 5, Little 4.
Mars Hill 34 43 — 77
Catawba 43 44 — 87