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Basketball (M)

Men's Basketball rides upsets to SAC title, regional bid

HICKORY, N.C.-- The Catawba College men’s basketball team pulled off its third straight upset at the Food Lion South Atlantic Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament, earning the league’s automatic bid into the NCAA II Regional with an 81-68 win over fourth-seeded Newberry at the Multipurpose Facility at Catawba Valley Community College on Sunday afternoon. The seventh-seeded Indians improve to 12-18 overall, while Newberry ends its season at 16-13. Tournament Most Valuable Player, Helgi Magnusson, recorded a double-double in the championship game with 20 points and 10 rebounds, while Catawba’s lone senior, Duke Phipps, added 19 points and three steals. Phipps, along with freshman Brian Graves (10 points, nine assists) joined Magnusson on the all-tournament team from Catawba. The nine assists by Graves set a championship game record. “Who would have ever thought,” said Catawba coach Jim Baker. “I thought we had the talent, but we never could get them playing together. The last three days, the kids have come together.” The game saw five ties and a dozen lead changes in the opening half with Catawba holding a 37-35 edge at the break. Catawba never trailed after Brian Frasier’s jumper with 25 seconds left in the first stanza and would use an 8-0 run early in the second half to pull out to a 51-40 lead with 12:51 left. Newberry could only get within nine the rest of the way as Catawba connected on five of its 10 three pointers in the final nine minutes to stay in front. Phipps hit on four shots behind the arc, while Magnusson added seven. Catawba shot 59 percent in the final half to just 43 percent for Newberry. Tommy Burke led Newberry with 15 points, scoring a dozen in the opening half. Rashaad Carter followed with 13 and was named to the all-tournament team. Michael Dease and Tymere Zimmerman also reached double figures for Newberry with 12 and 10, respectively. Ronald Lewis, of Mars Hill, rounded out the all-tournament team. “We had a hard time guarding. We didn’t force enough turnovers. I don’t know if we ever got the nerves out,” said Newberry coach David Conrady. “Duke Phipps, the last time we played them, he had only two points. He’s shot the ball a lot better in this tournament.” The seventh-seeded Indians are the lowest seed to capture the league tournament title. Catawba also improves to 5-0 in SAC Tournament finals as the Tribe also won the championship in 1991, 1998, 1999 and 2001. Catawba will advance to the South Atlantic Regional for the fourth time. The team qualified in 1998, 1999 and 2001. “Just getting to go is a great experience,” Baker said. “I know we will be the eighth seed, but once you get there, anything can happen.” #####

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