Blue Bears win 63-59
SALISBURY — When you’re winning a lot of basketball games, you have confidence to win the close games at the end.
Meet the Livingstone Blue Bears, who scored the final four points of the game to hand Saint Augustine’s its fourth straight CIAA defeat 63-59 in Trent Gym.
Mark Thomas led the Blue Bears with 18 points. He also dished out six assists.
Jody Hill added 16 points. He and Anthony Welch each drilled two 3-pointers.
Livingstone’s Ethan Anderson was the third player in double figures with 12.
With the score tied at 59, Anderson hit two free throws with 32 seconds left and Hill nailed down the win with one tick left. Those were the only points scored in the final 2:25.
The teams kept the 632 fans in attendance on the edge of their seats. There were nine lead changes and nine ties with no lead larger than six points.
On paper, perhaps Livingstone shouldn’t have won. The Blue Bears (19-5, 11-4) gave up a decided advantage in offensive rebounds (16-3) and second-chance points (18-3). The Falcons outscored Livingstone 38-18 in the paint.
It really was no surprise. The visitors are the CIAA’s top rebounding team.
The Falcons led 49-45 with 10 minutes left. The Blue Bears came back to tie the score at 50 and again at 52. Saint Augustine’s surged ahead 54-52 but Livingstone put together a 7-2 run to take a 59-56 lead.
Saint Augustine wouldn’t quit. Tyquan Stroman drilled a trey to tie the score.
The Blue Bears then won it at the foul line.
It was appropriate that Livingstone won it at the charity stripe. The Blue Bears were clutch all night long, going 21-of-26.
Thomas was 7-for-8 while Hill was a perfect 6-for-6.
Saint Augusine’s, meanwhile, attempted only nine free throws, hitting six.
The Falcons (15-10, 8-7) know how they lost this one. During that final stretch, they committed two costly turnovers.
Livingstone received a good contribution from its bench, which scored 25 points. Eight different Blue Bears scored, including Tyler Johnson (who led James Stinson’s club in rebounding with six), Eladio Espinoza, Omar Bey-Ford and Jarius King.
NOTES: Livingstone, ranked sixth in the region, takes on second-ranked Winston-Salem State on Saturday, again in New Trent Gym. … The Blue Bears defeated the Rams (19-4, 12-2) earlier the year. They are the two top teams in the Southern Division.