03/13/05 — MOC claims first-ever NCAA regional win

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MOC claims first-ever NCAA regional win

By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on March 13, 2005 2:19 AM

MISENHEIMER -- The Mount Olive College men's basketball team's most-successful season in program history continued on Saturday afternoon in typical Trojan fashion.

With six players averaging eight or more points per game this season, Mount Olive maintained that scoring and overall balance in an 86-78 win over Millersville (Pa.) University in the in the first round of the East Regional of the 2005 NCAA Division II men's basketball championship at Pfeiffer University's gymnasium.

"It's no one-man show. We won as a team," Mount Olive senior center Sharome Holloway said. "That's what has kept us together, on and off the court ... family-tight.

"It feels real good to win. I just hope we can carry that momentum to the next game," Holloway said.

The win -- Mount Olive's first ever in NCAA regional play -- improved the Trojans to 27-4 on the season. Mount Olive faces Indiana (Pa.) in the semifinals today at 5 p.m. The sixth-seeded Indians (24-8) upset No. 3 seed Edinboro 76-73 in overtime.

"It's our first NCAA victory. That was my No. 1 goal, for these guys to get that victory," Mount Olive coach Bill Clingan said. "You can talk about that the rest of your life. From there, we go to Round 2. We played a hard-fought ballgame. I'm proud of these guys."

Leading scorer Elton Coffield came off of the bench to pace the Trojans again with 23 points, while Holloway (16 points), Victor Young (15) and Chris Bartley (11) also reached double figures. Melvin Creddle added nine points, five rebounds, five steals and four assists. His final assist -- a rousing alley-oop pass to Elijah Rouse -- capped a 9-2 Mount Olive run to close the game.

"A lot of times things don't go the way you want them to," said Rouse, who had seven points and three offensive rebounds. "I just wanted to let the other teams know that we are a good team. We don't let down until the last second."

The Trojans and Marauders were tied once, but Mount Olive never trailed in the second half. The Carolinas-Virginia Athletics Conference co-champs led by eight twice, once early in the second, then again with 5:30 left on a put-back by Creddle. Millersville never went away.

The Trojans scored just one point in the next three minutes as the Marauders methodically chipped the lead down to 77-76 with two minutes left. From there, Mount Olive found another gear on both ends of the court.

Creddle and Maurice Horton forced key, Millersville turnovers in the final two minutes, while Rouse, Coffield and Holloway tallied field goals to help the No. 2 seed put the game away.

The Trojans won the turnover battle 16-11 as Creddle, Young and Horton had multi-steal games.

"We turned the ball over 16 times. It's hard to keep a team out of transition when you turn the ball over," Millersville coach Fred Thompson said. "We shot the ball well enough to win, but the turnover factor was the main factor in this basketball game."

The Marauders had their fair share of balance as well, helping them stay within striking distance for nearly all of the contest. Sharp-shooting guard Greg Testa was 4-of-5 from behind the 3-point line and posted 20 points. Teammate Anthony Abrams added 17, while Brian Jones (13), Toochi Udeinya (12) and Kevin Cuff (11) also contributed to Millersville's total.

Jones had 12 rebounds as he and Holloway, who had six boards and two blocks, battled under the boards consistently through the game. Mount Olive narrowly won the rebounding edge 33-32.

"Sharome and Elijah battled inside. They went after second-chance points," Clingan said. "It was people going after loose balls and battling that made a big difference tonight."

The first half proved even closer with both team's only managing one, five-point lead each. Cuff knocked down his second of three 3-pointers in the half to put Millersville up 25-20 with 7:30 left in the first, before Coffield answered with a three to draw Mount Olive closer.

Three minutes later, the Trojans took their biggest lead of the half on 2-of-2 at the free throw line by Bartley. Mount Olive shot a sparkling 17-22 (77.3 percent) at the stripe.

The two teams battled back-and-forth, scoring seven more points each as the Trojans took a 42-37 lead into intermission. The first half saw eight lead changes and six ties.

Notes: The scoring balance and rebounding were nearly even, but the turnover battle wasn't Mount Olive's only statistical edge. The Trojans scored 23 points on turnovers to Millersville's nine, tallied 21 second-chance points to their opponents nine and outscored the Marauders bench 34-11.