NEWBERRY — An explosive second half from Newberry was not enough to dethrone No. 1 Queens as the Royals narrowly escaped in the last minute in an 81-75 thriller.
After struggling in the first 20 minutes, Newberry showed resilience and shot 41.5 (17-for-41) percent from the floor to orchestrate a dramatic comeback in the second half in front of a crowd numbering nearly 800.
The Wolves went on a 6-0 run early in the second half that trimmed the lead to 10 with 13:30 left on the clock. Six Royals’ turnovers combined with a couple of scoring droughts set the stage for a Wolves run in the ensuing possessions.
Four consecutive treys from Luke Gibson, James Stepp, Quaman Burton and Rob Valentine made it 59-55 with just under 11 minutes remaining in the contest.
A Queens’ turnover and a quick jump shot from Max Miller cut the deficit to two with 59-57, forcing a Royals’ timeout. The Wolves continued their 11-1 run with a dagger from deep from Burton to tie it up 60-60.
Gibson’s trey to put Newberry up 70-65 with 4:39 left swung momentum back towards the Wolves.
The Royals’ crept back and a three from Todd Withers tied it back at 70 apiece before Stepp’s jump shot put Newberry back on top 72-70 with 2:39 on the clock. Stepp finished the night with 14 points with 12 of those coming in the second half.
But the top-ranked Royals closed out the game on an 11-4 run to remain undefeated heading into Saturday’s showdown in Charlotte with No. 5 Lincoln Memorial
A trio of Wolves – Gibson, Stepp and Valentine – ended the night in double figures. Valentine led the team in rebounds with seven.
Queens had a trio of players with double-figure boards and outrebounded Newberry 62-35. Newberry capitalized on 25 Queens’ errors, resulting in 22 points off of turnovers.
Gibson hit back-to-back treys to open the contest putting the Wolves up 6-4 early in the first half. Both teams exchanged baskets with the lead changing three times in the first two minutes. A Queens’ trey from Newberry native Jalin Alexander put the Royals on top, where they would remain for the rest of the half. Newberry forced six Queens turnovers within the first 10 minutes, but cold shooting from the floor hindered the Wolves offensively. A 7-0 run from Queens sent the Wolves into halftime down 39-26.
Newberry outnumbered the Royals in assists and steals on the night. Burton led the team with six steals in the contest.