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Basketball (M)

Men's Basketball Advances To SAC Tournament Final

HICKORY, NC -- Catawba earned its third straight trip to the championship game of the South Atlantic Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament with a 79-68 win over top-seeded Lenoir-Rhyne on Saturday night at the Multipurpose Arena at Catawba Valley Community College.  The fourth-seeded Catawba Indians improve to 20-9 overall and will face either second-seeded Newberry or third-seeded Tusculum in the final.  Lenoir-Rhyne, who has lost three straight years to Catawba in the tournament semifinals, falls to 18-10.

The Indians trailed by two at the break, but dominated the second half en route to the win.  Catawba shot 58% in the second half, outscored the Bears 46-33 and out-rebounded L-R by a 26-8 margin.  Dominick Reid (Charlotte, NC/Cannon School), who led Catawba with 23 points, scored 14 of his points in the final half. 

Lenoir-Rhyne scored the opening basket of the second half then Catawba reeled off six straight points to take a lead on a jumper by Antonio Houston (Charlotte, NC/E. Mecklenburg HS).  When Isaac Rose (Jonesville, NC/W. Forsyth HS) canned a jumper at the 14:51 mark, giving Catawba a 48-46 edge, the Indians never trailed again.

Reid connected on a three-pointer and Donald Rutherford (Morganton, NC/Freedom HS) added a jumper as Catawba pushed out to a 64-56 lead.  A seven-point burst increased the margin to a dozen at 73-61 with 4:17 remaining and the Indians were not threatened down the stretch.

Catawba jumped out of the gates and led 17-8 in the opening eight minutes.  Lenoir-Rhyne would rally behind Josh Rudder and Marcus Hodges, who scored 11 and 10 points in the opening half, respectively.  Rudder gave the Bears a 23-21 lead during a 17-4 spurt that had L-R on top 25-21.  The Bears led 35-33 at the break despite shooting just 34% in part thanks to a dozen Catawba turnovers.

Lenoir-Rhyne would shoot just 38% in the loss, while Catawba canned 50%.  Catawba pulled down 20 offensive rebounds in its dominating performance on the board, doubling up L-R 50-25 and outscoring the Bears 22-7 in second-chance points. 

Houston added 19 points for the Indians, pulled down seven rebounds and dished out four assists.  Rutherford posted a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds.  Hodges had 20 to pace L-R and connected on five three-pointers.  Elliott McDowell scored 18 points with Rudder adding 13.

Catawba is making its eighth trip to the SAC Tournament Championship game and is looking for back-to-back titles.  Catawba has lost just once in the finals, coming in 2007 to Wingate.

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