NEWBERRY — With their head coach gone due to a double technical and down by 11 points to conference foe Lenoir-Rhyne with under three minutes to play, the situation for Newberry looked bleak.
However, it did not stay that way for long.
After making three out of four free technical throws and a quick Bears’ (0-4, 0-1 SAC) layup with 2:52 left on the clock, Lenoir-Rhyne held a 75-64 lead.
Those would be their last points of the contest as Newberry (5-1, 1-0 SAC) thundered back late in the game.
A pair of free throws from Rob Valentine with 2:46 remaining sparked a 13-0 run that was punctuated with a trey from Marshall Lange to tie the game at 75 apiece with 1:13 remaining. A late foul from the Bears’ Bertrand Awana on a rebound put James Stepp at the line with 0.6 seconds on the clock to shoot a pair of free throws with the game on the line.
Everyone at Eleazer Arena held their breath as Stepp knocked down both free throws to seal the 77-75 victory. He finished with eight points on the night, but none were bigger than the final two.
Newberry capitalized on the Bears’ mistakes with 20 points made off of turnovers, with 12 of them coming during the second half. Following Davis’ ejection and Valentine’s pair of free throws, a steal in the frontcourt by Stepp led to an immediate triple that sliced the deficit to six points and sent Eleazer Arena into a frenzy. Lange added a steal on the next possession that led to a free throw, helping the Wolves turn the momentum for good in the late stages.
The Wolves offense stalled during the second half, allowing Lenoir-Rhyne to go on two double figure runs in 10 minutes. Newberry was only able to score nine points in the first 11:30 of the second half compared to 30 from the Bears. Lenoir-Rhyne tallied 28 points in the paint in the second half compared to six from the Wolves.
Three Wolves – Lange, Stepp, and Max Miller – notched double figure points in the win. Lange led the team with five rebounds, four steals and five assists.
Lenoir-Rhyne jumped out to a 6-2 lead to start the contest, but Newberry went on the offensive with a 16-3 run in the next five minutes to make it 18-9. The Wolves continued to run up the score making all seven of their next shots to increase the lead to 31-17. After notching 31 points in 12 minutes of play, Newberry struggled to connect and only scored seven points in the final 8:50 to make it 38-29 at halftime.
Miller tallied a season best 11 points in the first half and remained perfect from the floor. He finished the night with 16 points and shooting 87 percent from the field.