Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 14, 2013
SALISBURY — John Lentz has coached Lenoir-Rhyne basketball 27 seasons, and he’s probably never been more frustrated— or more relieved.
His Bears got 51 combined points from Denzel Dillingham and B.J. Beasley and escaped Catawba’s Goodman Gym with an 86-74 overtime victory on Wednesday.
“If we make free throws it’s over in regulation,” Lentz growled. “If we box out, it’s over in regulation, and if they don’t bank in a 3-pointer, it’s over in regulation.”
That banked-in 3-pointer came from Catawba freshman Vismantas Marijosius with 11 seconds left in regulation and allowed Catawba (7-14, 4-9 SAC) to force overtime against the favored Bears.
But the Indians were ill-equipped for an extra five minutes. Agile big man Tyrece Little (15 points) had fouled out with 47 seconds left in regulation. When the 6-foot-6 Marijosius picked up his fifth personal with 3:11 left in OT, the Indians were still tied with the visitors, but the Bears (15-6, 8-5) swiftly pulled away after that.
Catawba placed five men in double figures, but it lost another close one.
“We didn’t have the spunk we’ve had in some games and we didn’t play very good, but we still had a chance,” Catawba coach Jim Baker said. “We’re just so fragile mentally right now that when something goes wrong, we tend to start looking around instead of just continuing to compete.”
Beasley a workmanlike warrior who averages 7.5 points per game, played 42 minutes. His 25 points came on 8-for-10 field-goal shooting and 9-for-13 foul shooting, and he fought for 12 boards.
“That’s the kid that got it done for us,” Lentz said. “Besides all the points, he did a heck of a job defending Little.”
Catawba trailed 30-25 at the break, although Dillingham, who averages 17 points, had an awful half with two points and four turnovers.
“I wasn’t upset,” Dillingham said. “Beasley was doing a great job, and we all were feeding off him. That’s why it’s a team sport.”
With the Indians down 39-37 midway through the second half, Little got his third personal, plus a technical, and had to sit for long minutes.
With the Bears clinging to a 50-49 lead with 4:28 left, the 6-4 Dillingham was given a little space, buried a 3-pointer and suddenly ignited.
“I’d been playing bad, and either that was going to continue or I was going to start helping us win,” he said. “Sometimes you get one to fall, and then you get on a roll.”
Dillingham, who scored 26 on 9-for-11 shooting, was incredible the rest of the way.
“His size and quickness make him a very tough matchup for anybody,” Baker said.
Catawba trailed by five late in regulation, but it had a five-point possession that included a huge stickback of a missed free throw by Little.
When Houston and Martin made 3s, Catawba led 72-70 in the overtime period, but the Bears totally dominated the final three minutes.
“We fell asleep at times,” Lentz said. “But we woke up.”
LENOIR-RHYNE (86) — Dillingham 26, Beasley 25, McClure 14, J. Perry 9, W. Perry 5, Terrell 3, Noyes 2, Kunz 2, Brown.
CATAWBA (74) — Little 15, Perkins 14, Marijosius 13, Houston 11, Martin 11, Edwards 6, Watson 2, Sampah 2, Coleman.
Lenoir-Rhyne 30 36 20 — 86
Catawba 25 41 8 — 74