Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 27, 2013
SALISBURY — The window of opportunity was left ajar Saturday night at swollen Trent Gym, but only visiting Johnson C. Smith scurried through.
Just like the throng of fans who were denied admission, Livingstone was left on the outside looking in after suffering a frantic 97-89 CIAA loss.
“It was a great opportunity,” coach James Stinson emphasized after LC (14-4, 6-3) had its three-game winning streak snapped. “A great opportunity that they took advantage of. It was opportunity for us to try to separate ourselves. It would have given us some breathing room because the Southern Division is tight.”
J.C. Smith (13-6, 6-3) happily crashed the party, shot 60 percent from the floor and went home with its sixth victory in the past seven games.
“I’d say Tobacco Road is once again what it used to be,” winning coach Steve Joyner said. “It’s very tough and very competitive.”
So was this game. It was a brass-knuckles duel between rivals with a simmering history. The score was tied nine times in the first half — the last at 40-40 after Livingstone’s Omar Ford-Bey grabbed an offensive rebound and hit a fadeaway from inside the lane as the horn sounded.
There was more drama to come, though the Blue Bears — despite a 48-30 rebounding edge —never led in the second half. They got as close as 64-63 when junior guard Mark Thomas knocked down one of his five 3-pointers with 11:35 remaining.
“We tried, but they got off to a good lead in the second half and we couldn’t come back,” Thomas said after netting a team-high 21 points. “It was nothing more than that.”
Actually, there was more. Stinson was asked what happened in the waning moments and quickly answered, “Trevin Parks happened.”
It was Parks, Smith’s deadly sniper and the nation’s second-leading Division II scorer, who shredded the LC defense. He shot 11-for-19 from the field, converted four of seven three-point attempts and paced all scorers with 34 points.
“Coach Joyner has been preaching about opportunities all week,” Parks said. “They only come once. And if you miss it, you’ve missed it. So we all tried to keep a cool head in a hot situation.”
Parks kept the Golden Bulls on track with 22 second-half points, including a couple of free throws that pushed the lead to 14 with less than a minuteß to play.
“He just did what he was supposed to do,” LC’s Eladio Espinoza said after collecting 10 rebounds. “That what he does. Problem was, we didn’t do what we were supposed to do.”
JC SMITH (97) — T.Parks 34, E.Parks 19, R.Williams 17, Wilkerson 16, Daniels 5, Davis 3, Walls 3, Linson, Pratt, McCoy, Stanislaus, C.Williams.
LIVINGSTONE(89) — Thomas 21, Ford-Bey 16, Welch 10, Hill 9, Espinoza 9, Anderson 9, Johnson 9, King 4, Sanders 2, Godlock, Flint, Bailey.
JC Smith 40 57 — 97
Livingstone 40 49 — 89