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College basketball: Catawba’s breakthrough season comes to an end

Staff report 

CHARLOTTE — With an awful lot on the line, the 3-point line wasn’t kind to Catawba’s men’s basketball’s team.

Misfiring on 16 of 19 from 3-point land, the Indians ended an extraordinary bounce-back season under head coach Rob Perron. A year ago, the Indians didn’t even qualify for the South Atlantic Tournament. They finished a wild ride on Sunday. They were within a bounce or two of a regional final appearance.

Fourth-seeded Catawba was edged by top-seeded Queens, 96-93, in a semifinal matchup in the Southeast Regional being hosted by Queens at the Levine Center. Catawba never stopped doubting it could beat Queens, but for the third time this season against the Royals, Catawba (25-8) came out on the short end. All three contests went to the wire.

The latest heated struggle between the teams included a series of last-minute technicals on both squads. Queens survived and advanced mostly because it shot 8-for-14 on 3-pointers.

Guard Daniel Carr turned in a career effort with 33 points to carry the Royals (30-4) to victory in front of 1,266 spectators. He shot 11-for-19 from the floor and drilled five 3-pointers. Shaun Willett, who leads the nation in double-doubles, made nine free throws and added 19 points for the winners.

Jameel Taylor closed his memorable Catawba career with 23 points and seven rebounds. Like Willett, Taylor received a late technical foul. For both standouts, that was the fifth foul, and they had to sit and watch the last 32 seconds.

Malik Constantine turned in Catawba’s finest performance, 6-for-8 from the field and 11-for-13 on free throws for 24 points. He stroked a massive 3-pointer and pulled down seven boards. Devin Cooper also was outstanding. He controlled the ball and played 36 turnover-free minutes in a hectic, frantic, physical game. He had 15 points and five assists.

Catawba got 12 points from blue-collar senior Jeremy McLaughlin, who battled fiercely for three-point play opportunities. Terrence Whitfield came off the bench to supply a spark and another 10 points and was the Indians’ fifth man in double figures.

But Catawba didn’t get a lot of production from Marcell Haskett, Daquan Lilly and Jordan McElveen. That talented trio combined for only nine points, and to beat Queens just about everyone needed to have a good night.

After a terrible start, Catawba was forced to play uphill. The Indians missed nine of their first 10 shots to dig a 14-3 hole.

Down 22-10 almost midway though the first half, the Indians finally settled down and settled in.

Taylor made a short jumper in the paint to cut the Queens lead to 44-35 at halftime. Catawba shot 30 percent in the first half and a brutal 1-for-10 on 3-pointers, but was still in the game because of 14 made free throws.

Catawba shot much better in the second half. The Indians quickly made a run to get within 53-50 with 14 minutes left to play.

Queens wouldn’t relinquish the lead and stabilized, but then the Indians charged again. When Cooper picked Carr’s pocket, he led a break and spotted Constantine open in the left corner in front of Catawba’s bench. Constantine’s 3-pointer splashed down accurately with 6:33 remaining and finally got Catawba even at 71-all.

Carr answered with a 3-pointer, one of the game’s biggest shots. After Willett made two fast-break layups, Queens went back ahead by five. Catawba stayed close after that, but never got over the hump.

Catawba trailed 91-85 when Taylor attacked the rim and was fouled with 42 ticks left. He made his first free throw, but he missed the second. Queens grabbed the rebound, but Constantine stole the ball and powered in a three-point play. His free throw cut Queens’ lead to 91-89 with 34 seconds left.

Then all heck broke loose.

Catawba was called for a personal foul. Then a player from each team (Catawba’s Whitfield and Queens’ Kenny Dye) received a technical foul. Both benches were then hit with technicals. Before order was restored, Taylor and Willett were issued the technicals that counted as their fifth fouls and ended their participation.

No technical free throws were shot by either team. All those technicals were ruled to be off-setting.

When play resumed after several minutes, Van Turner, who had been fouled to trigger the madness, went to the foul line and calmly made two free ones to put Queens up 93-89.

Whitfield answered with two free throws for the Indians to make it 93-91. Whitfield then came up with a steal in the backcourt. McElveen was contested, but he had a point-blank shot in the lane to get Catawba even. It didn’t fall with 24 seconds left, and McElveen fouled Queens’ Blake Morrow as Morrow rebounded.

Morrow missed one free throw, then made one, for a 94-91 Queens lead.

Haskett, the streaky Catawba bomber, had not made a field goal all night, but he swished a big one with five seconds left. It appeared to be a 3-pointer, at first, but he had a foot on the line, and Catawba was still down by a point.

Carr made two free throws with three seconds left to put the Royals ahead, 96-93.

Catawba had to go the length of the court after a timeout, but Haskett got a decent look at a 3-pointer from the left side.

His shot glanced off the iron, and Catawba’s season was over.

The Indians were out-rebounded, but they won the turnover battle. After that shaky first-half shooting, the Indians came through with 51.4-percent accuracy after the break.

Queens moves on to Tuesday night’s regional final. The Royals will take on Augusta, with a trip to the national tournament in Evansville, Ind., on the line. Augusta beat USC Aiken on Sunday, 93-89.

CATAWBA (93) — Constantine 24,  Taylor 23, Cooper 15, McLaughlin 12, Whitfield 10, Haskett 4, McElveen 3, Lilly 2, Zemonek, Barber.

QUEENS (96) — Carr 33, Willett 19, Lewis 11, Turner 11, Patterson 8, Dye 5, Blaylock 5, Morrow 4, Taylor, Brodowicz.

Catawba   35   58   —   93

Queens     44   52     — 96




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