HICKORY, N.C. — The fifth-seeded Newberry Wolves scored the final five points in overtime to finish off the fourth-seeded Lenoir-Rhyne Bears to take an 84-79 win in the quarterfinals of the Food Lion South Atlantic Conference Tournament in Shuford Gym on Wednesday.
Newberry moves to 19-8 on the season and advances to Saturday’s Food Lion SAC Tournament Semifinal against top-seeded Lincoln Memorial. Tipoff is scheduled for noon Saturday at Timmons Arena in Greenville on the campus of Furman University.
Tickets for the Food Lion SAC Tournament semifinals and finals sessions will be available for purchase at Armfield’s on Main Street for $10 from 9 a.m to 5:30 p.m. on Thursday and Friday. Tickets will also be available at the Newberry College Coaches’ Show on the third floor at Bar III on Thursday night, with the show starting at 7 p.m.
Presale tickets at Armfield’s or the Coaches’ Show will cost only $10. The tickets will be $13 per session at the gate on Saturday. Only 50 discounted tickets will be available.
Demarkus Smith and Xavier Holmes tied for the team lead with 16 points apiece. Smith was perfect from the field in overtime with five points and also grabbed six rebounds in the contest. Holmes added eight rebounds and two blocks to his total while shooting 7-of-11 from the field.
Cole Birchfield scored 14 points in the contest, including a clutch three-pointer late in the overtime to push the Wolves’ lead to two possessions. Dondray Walker scored 13 points and Brunes Charles scored 10 points. Gerald Evans had a fine all-around game with six points, six assists, six steals and four rebounds with only one turnover.
Newberry’s chances at winning the game were not always close, as the Bears raced out to a large lead. The hosts scored the first seven points of the game and had taken a 21-7 lead eight minutes into the game.
“There were several times in the game when we could have broken, but we kept fighting and fighting and pulled out a win,” said Newberry head coach Dave Davis. “We found a way to win tonight and that’s the formula for the postseason.”
The Wolves slowly chipped away at L-R’s advantage and a 10-run brought the scarlet and gray back to within two points at 29-27. Newberry cut the lead to one point in the final minute of the period before Lenoir-Rhyne scored two late free throws to take a 35-32 lead into the halftime break.
Newberry made only 10-of-30 of its first half shots, while L-R connected on 14-of-24 (58.3 percent) of its shots in the period. L-R also outrebounded the Wolves 18-13, with nine of the Wolves’ rebounds on the offensive end of the floor. Newberry also forced Lenoir-Rhyne to turn the ball over 13 times, while only turning the ball over six times on their own.
L-R pulled away from the Wolves in the middle of the second half, taking a 55-42 lead with 11:08 to play. Newberry responded by scoring the next eight points, reeling the Bears back into within five points at 55-50 less than two minutes later.
The hosts still led by seven points inside the three-minute mark of the second half before the Wolves closed out regulation on an 11-4 run. Birchfield drained a three-pointer to get the Wolves within three and consecutive buckets from Holmes and Walker gave the scarlet and gray their first lead of the game at 70-69 at the 1:35 mark. Another Holmes basket gave Newberry a three-point lead, but L-R’s R.J. McClure was fouled taking a three-pointer and made all three free throws to tie the game.
Smith held the ball for the last shot and his three-point attempt was halfway down the basket before it spun out, sending the game to overtime tied at 72-72. Holmes scored 11 points and grabbed five rebounds in the half. Lenoir-Rhyne shot a stunning 64.7 percent (11-of-17) in the half but turned the ball over 10 times to Newberry’s two in the period. Newberry was also hot from the field in the half, making 53.3 percent (16-of-30) of its shots in the period. Newberry scored 13 points off of L-R turnovers in the half.
In the overtime, Charles made a pair of free throws followed by a quick Evans steal and a Smith three-pointer to put the Wolves up by five points in the first 16 seconds of the period. With the Wolves up four, L-R scored on consecutive possessions to tie the game back up at 79-79, but Newberry scored the final five points to seal the win.
• Newberry advances to the SAC Tournament semifinals for only the fourth time since joining the league in 1997-98.
• Saturday will be the first postseason meeting between Newberry and LMU.
• The Wolves saw three teams near them in the Southeast Region rankings lose Wednesday - No. 6 Carson-Newman, No. 8 Mount Olive and No. 10 Barton were all eliminated from their conference tournaments. Newberry is No. 9 in that ranking.
• Wednesday marked the first Newberry win at Lenoir-Rhyne under head coach Dave Davis in five tries. Newberry had not won in Shuford Gym since February 2004.