NEWBERRY — The Newberry Wolves and Carson-Newman Eagles went back and forth and were within one possession of each other for most of the game until a prolonged Newberry drought allowed the guests to pull away for a 92-78 win in the regular season finale for both teams in Eleazer Arena on Saturday.
Newberry completes the regular season with an 18-8 overall record and 14-8 mark in the South Atlantic Conference. The Wolves will be the fifth seed in this year’s Food Lion SAC Tournament when the brackets are officially released later this weekend. Carson-Newman wraps up its regular season at 19-7 overall and 16-6 in the league.
Demarkus Smith led Newberry with 22 points, while Cole Birchfield scored a career-best 19 points.
The game was tied 14 times with seven lead changes, nearly all of which came in the first half and the first five minutes of the second half. Birchfield scored 17 of his 19 points in the first half but a run of late free throws gave Carson-Newman a 43-42 at the break.
Carson-Newman shot 53.6 percent (15-of-28) in the half but only held the slight lead over Newberry because the Wolves made seven three-pointers in the period despite making only 13-of-30 (43.3 percent) of their field goal tries.
The early stages of the second half did not see either side extend their lead to more than one possession until more than 10 minutes had elapsed. Newberry’s downfall came in a stretch of 11:15 when the Wolves missed 11 straight field goal chances.
Xavier Holmes made a jumper in the paint to give the Wolves a 60-58 lead with 13:24 to go, but Newberry went ice cold from the field until Gerald Evans drained a three-pointer with 2:09 left. By then, Carson-Newman had pushed its lead to as many as 15 points before Newberry could stop the bleeding.
Newberry shot only 10-of-34 (29.4 percent) in the half, while the guests shot an efficient 55.6 percent (10-of-18) from the field. The Eagles also benefited from 19 fouls called on Newberry in the period to go 28-of-34 (82.4 percent) at the free throw line. Newberry made 13-of-21 (61.9 percent) of its free throws in the period.