Basketball (M)

Men's Basketball Punches Ticket Back To NCAA's

HICKORY, NC -- In a game that saw six lead changes in the final four minutes, Catawba held off Tusculum to claim the South Atlantic Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament Championship with a 63-61 victory on Sunday afternoon at the Multipurpose Facility at Catawba Valley Community College. With the win, the Catawba Indians (21-9) claim the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA II Southeast Regional Tournament. Tusculum (20-10) will await word on an at-large bid.

The fourth-seeded Indians scored its second straight tournament title, both by two points, and their seventh overall. Dominick Reid (Charlotte, NC/Cannon School) sank two free throws with nine seconds to play to put Catawba on top 62-61. After a missed shot by the Pioneers, who were seeded third, Cliff Burns (Cooleemee, NC/Davie Co. HS) grabbed the rebound and was fouled with 0.2 seconds left. He added a free throw for the final margin.

Tusculum overcame an eight-point deficit in the final eight minutes and twice took one-point leads in the final minute. Kyle Moore gave the Pioneers a 58-57 edge on a three-pointer with 49 seconds left. Catawba went back on top when tournament MVP Antonio Houston (Charlotte, NC/E. Mecklenburg HS) grabbed an offense rebound and converted a three-point play with 33 seconds to go, giving Catawba a 60-58 edge.

Wes Taylor again gave the Pioneers a lead on a three-point play with 16 seconds remaining. That set up Reid, who sank the winning free throws.

Catawba led by six out of the gates at 10-4, but Tusculum would lead much of the half, taking a 24-17 edge with just over two minutes left in the opening stanza. The Pioneers led 26-23 at the half. Catawba surged ahead early in the second half, using an 8-0 run to go ahead 33-30 with 16:20 left.

The Indians held the lead until a layup by Moore with 3:31 to go set up the back-and-forth finish. Houston led Catawba with 16 points with Rob Fields (Orangeburg, SC/Orangeburg-Wilkerson HS) coming off the bench to add 14. Burns posted a double-double with 12 points and 14 rebounds.

Moore led all scorers with 18 points for the Pioneers. Josh Bennett added 11 points. Neither team shot well. Catawba made just 36.5% with Tusculum hitting on 37%. Catawba held a 40-31 edge on the boards. Tusculum made five turnovers, half as many miscues as the Indians.

Reid joined Houston on the all-tournament team for Catawba. Moore and Bennett represented Tusculum on the team. Newberry’s Clemente Martin rounded out the squad.

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