NEWBERRY — Seniors Quaman Burton, Rob Valentine, Xavier Hill and James Stepp took the court for the final time at Eleazer Arena with one thing on their mind – victory.
Powered by Valentine’s 33 points, the Wolves blew past the Pioneers in their regular season finale, 91-81, and nabbed the sixth seed in the conference tournament.
Valentine had a quiet 11 points headed into intermission, but came alive in the second with 22 points to lead all scorers. He finished the night accumulating over half of the Wolves’ 12 treys going 7-for-13 from beyond the arc.
The second stanza mirrored the first with Newberry and the Pioneers matching each other shot for shot. A trio of three-pointers from Hill, Valentine and Jabrie Bullard to cap a 11-3 run put the Wolves ahead 49-41 heading into the 16-minute media timeout. Tusculum managed to erase a 10-point deficit over the ensuing five minutes to tie it 60 apiece for the final time in the contest.
Led by the seniors, Newberry would not go away quietly with Valentine firing off an 8-2 run to give Newberry the 68-62 lead, one they would not relinquish for the remainder of the game.
Hill knocked down a couple of threes to increase the lead to 11 while Valentine and Stepp closed out the victory with effective free throw shooting.
The senior class would combine for 26 of the Wolves’ last 33 points.
Both teams exchanged leads in the opening minutes before a layup from Marshall Lange signaled a 10-2 run that gave Newberry the 17-11 edge. Tusculum went on their own 13-7 streak punctuated by a jump shot from Brandon Mitchell to knot it up at 24 apiece. Mitchell would score the next five points to give the Pioneers a three-point lead, however both teams kept it close down the stretch and a pair of free throws from Lange broke a 35-35 tie to put Newberry up 36-35 heading into the locker room.
Max Miller had a perfect 6-for-6 from the field and knocking down three free throws to garner 15 points, marking his twelfth time this season recording double figure points.
Seniors Burton, Valentine, Hill and Stepp were honored in a pregame ceremony as they took the court for the last time at Eleazer Arena. Valentine came within one to tying his career-high with 33 points, while Stepp chipped in a solid 10 points and four rebounds. Hill and Burton rounded out the senior class by adding nine and five points, respectively.
Free throw shooting proved to be crucial for the Wolves who converted on 19 of their 24 shots from the charity stripe while the Pioneers only had seven trips to the line.
The Wolves were also able to take advantage of Tusculum’s errors turning 19 turnovers into 19 points.
Newberry finished sixth in the conference standings which means the Wolves will travel to Jefferson City, Tenn. tonight to face No. 3 Carson-Newman in the 2018 South Atlantic Conference Men’s Basketball Championship Quarterfinal. Tipoff will begin at 8 p.m.