NEWBERRY — Heading into halftime, Rob Valentine had three points and was 1-for-4 from the field.
As the final buzzer sounded, he would walk off the court with 19 points after a 16-point explosion in the second half helped the Wolves narrowly edge past Wingate in the final minutes to win 78-73.
The Wolves trailed by as many as four with 3:30 left on the clock, but a Max Miller dunk at the three-minute mark put Newberry close with the 65-63 score and helped light the spark for the Wolves’ offense.
That spark’s name was Rob Valentine.
Valentine’s dagger to put the Wolves within one with 2:26 left on the clock got the crowd’s attention.
But he was not finished yet.
His second trey within 30 seconds put the crowd of over 500 on their feet.
However, it was Valentine’s final trey of the night to complete a 9-2 run over 90 seconds that sent Eleazer Arena into a frenzy as the Wolves took the 72-69 advantage with under a minute remaining.
The Wolves would not relinquish the lead and free throws from Jamaal Satisfield, James Stepp and Xavier Hill secured the 78-73 over the Bulldogs.
James Stepp and Marshall Lange rounded out the top three chipping in 15 and 13, respectively. Lange tallied a team-high five assists while Stepp tied Nick Dietrich in rebounds with six.
Back-to-back three-pointers from Lange and Stepp extended the Wolves’ lead to six to open the second half. Newberry would go 4-from-5 from the field concluding with a jumper from Miller to give the Wolves their largest lead of the game at 44-37. Both teams would stall offensively during the second half to lead to three ties and two changes before the Wolves took control after Valentine’s treys.
The defensive battle was evenly matched with each team pulling down 37 boards apiece.
While Wingate outshot Newberry from the floor 43.1% compared to 41.3, it was the Wolves’ 16 shots from beyond the arc that proved to be the difference down the stretch. The Bulldogs converted on only eight of their 24 attempts from deep.
A 7-3 Wolves’ run to begin the game was quickly stuffed by Wingate as Newberry would fail to score for the next five minutes to allow the Bulldogs to take the 12-7 lead. Newberry responded with their own 5-0 burst to tie it 12 apiece as it was the Bulldogs’ turn to go cold. Both teams struggled offensively but it was Newberry who would end the half 4-for-4 from the floor including back-to-back treys from Dietrich to head into halftime up 33-28.
Wingate had four players end the game with double figures including a team-high 20 points from Marco Haskins. Similar to Valentine, Haskins only had three points at halftime.