Trojan men advance to regional title game
By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on March 14, 2005 2:44 PM
MISENHEIMER - Mount Olive junior reserve Chris Bartley clapped and encouraged his teammates while waiting to check in to the Trojans' Division II East Regional semifinal contest with Indiana (Pa.) on Sunday evening.
His team trailed the Indians by nine with 14 minutes left, but Bartley had a feeling things were about to change.
He was right.
Bartley came off of the bench to drill two 3-pointers as Mount Olive, led by junior guard Melvin Creddle, turned in a stifling defensive performance down the stretch in a 72-64 win at Pfeiffer's Merner Gymnasium.
The deeper Trojans (28-4), facing a team that played in a grueling, overtime game the night before, outscored the Indians 33-16 in the final 14 minutes. After shooting just two free throws in the first half, Mount Olive made 15-of-21 from the stripe after intermission, including 10-of-14 in the final 2:17.
"It was a big game. We knew we either had to go hard or go home," Bartley said. "I had a feeling when I was sitting on the bench that we were going to come back. Everybody stepped up and we won."
A rematch between the Trojans and nemesis Pfeiffer will have to wait until next season. The host and top-seeded Falcons were upset in Sunday's second semifinal by Salem International 105-92.
Mount Olive and the Tigers (24-6) will battle at 7 p.m. on Tuesday in the East final with a berth in the Division II Elite Eight, which begins March 23 in Grand Forks, North Dakota, at stake.
"I think this group of guys will come out and play no matter who the opponent is," Clingan said. "Salem International played an outstanding game to beat a very good Pfeiffer team. We're going to have to play extremely well Tuesday."
Mount Olive needed all of its depth against the Indians (24-9) as leading scorer Elton Coffield finished with just four points and never found a rhythm against Indiana's chasing, diamond-and-one, zone defense.
Meanwhile, second-leading scorer and top rebounder, Sharome Holloway, also managed just four points and was saddled with foul trouble through the game. Bartley, Plinio Broering and Moise Tchankeu provided big minutes underneath for the Trojans.
"They all played very well. They gave us valuable minutes to save Sharome from a stamina standpoint and a foul standpoint," Mount Olive coach Bill Clingan said. "It's been a team effort all year long, and it was tonight."
Mount Olive forced many of Indiana's 14 second-half turnovers and tallied 18 points off of its opposition's miscues after intermission. Creddle, who also finished with 11 points, seven rebounds and five assists, had four steals in the second half - including one steal that led to two-of-two makes at the line to tie the game at 55-55 with 6:40 left.
From there, Victor Young, who had a team-best 26 points, knocked down two-of-two at the stripe at 5:20 to give the Trojans their first lead since the first minute of the game at 57-55.
The Trojans never trailed or faced a tie the rest of the way.
"Offensively, we didn't do a good job of handling their pressure in the second half," Indiana coach Gary Edwards said. "I take the responsibility for that because I needed to come up with something to combat that pressure.
"I did not do a good enough job to formulate some plays to get us some looks inside."
Indiana's game plan to limit turnovers offensively and force Mount Olive to shoot outside shots in the half court worked through most of the first half and a good portion of the second.
The Trojans, undersized at most positions, seemed bothered by the Indians' zone defense - geared to contain Coffield. The Trojans shot just 35 percent from the field before the break, including three-of-15 from 3-point range.
Meanwhile, Indiana's offense didn't dazzle, but managed to grind out a 27-17 lead with 4:38 left in the first half behind the scoring of Marc Williams, Lawrence Baker and Ayyub Ali.
Then Young got hot.
A Goldsboro High graduate, Young scored the Trojans' final 12 points of the half - including two, 3-pointers as Mount Olive closed within striking distance at 34-29 heading into the locker room.
"The only way to get out of a slump is to keep shooting," said Young, who has scored 41 points in two games. "With everybody pushing me, fortunately I got going."
Indiana came out of the locker room energized as point guard Brian Kizzie ignited a 9-3 Indian run that pushed his team's margin to 43-32 after a pull-up jumper. Kizzie tallied a team-best 18 points, 16 coming in the second half.
Near the 15-minute mark, Indiana's Mike Megel knocked down a 3-pointer to help his team maintain a 48-39 lead. Mount Olive seemed to come alive from that point.
In a four-minute stretch, the Trojans posted a 9-0 spurt to tie the score at 48-48 when Creddle grabbed a rebound, then went coast-to-coast for a score.
The Indians took one more five-point lead at 53-48 with 9:30 left, before the Trojans took control in the waning minutes to claim the victory and move within one win of the Elite Eight.
Notes: In two games, Creddle has contributed in all of the key, statistical categories. The junior guard has 20 points, 12 assists, nine rebounds and nine steals combined in the two games. Maurice Horton added 12 points Sunday. Mount Olive has shot a sizzling, 34-45 (75.5 percent) from the free throw line during the two, East Regional games - five percent better than its season average.
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