03/16/05 — Trojans are Elite! MOC headed to N. Dakota

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Trojans are Elite! MOC headed to N. Dakota

By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on March 16, 2005 2:12 PM

MISENHEIMER -- As spring approaches in eastern North Carolina, the Mount Olive College men's basketball team won't be packing up its winter clothes just yet.

The Trojans are headed to frigid, Grand Forks, North Dakota and the Division II Elite Eight next week.

Mount Olive earned the trip, its first in school history, with a 80-73 win over Salem International on Tuesday evening, cutting down the nets at Pfeiffer University's Merner Gymnasium.

The Trojans, winners of 12 of 13 and 20 their last 22, are the fourth Carolinas-Virginia Athletic Conference team in as many years to advance to the Elite Eight.

Mount Olive (29-4) will face Bryant University (R.I.), champion of the Northeast Region, when Elite Eight play begins on March 23.

Bryant enters the game at 23-8.

"It goes without saying that this is a great feeling," 15-year Mount Olive coach Bill Clingan said.." It's been a long time coming, and there have been a lot of good players in this program that haven't had a chance to have this experience."

Named the regional MVP, sophomore Elton Coffield scored 29 points and knocked down a whopping, 17-of-20 free throws in a physically played game. The Trojans and Tigers (24-7) combined for 59 fouls and 80 free throw attempts.

Mount Olive, playing in front of 50-plus of its own faithful, shot 31-of-51 from the stripe, including 25-40 after intermission with Coffield making 15.

"I tried to use the physical play to my advantage and get to the line and make some free throws," Coffield said. "I think we handled the physcial game pretty well."

Junior Maurice Horton provided 11 crucial points off of the bench in the second half, posting nine points during a 13-0 Trojan run to start the second. Five minutes into the second half, Horton made two, 3-pointers and added one, old-fashioned three-point play to push the score to 46-32.

"I got into foul trouble in the first half and had to sit, so I knew in the second half I had to redeem myself and give our team a spark," Horton said. "I'm a confidence- player. If I hit one or two, I'm going to let that third one go."

Senior center Sharome Holloway notched a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds - including two-of-two at the stripe to cap an 18-4 spurt to start the second at 11:23.

Slowly, Salem International, an upset winner over top-seeded Pfeiffer on Sunday, chipped away at the lead.with Alfonso Jones and Demetrius Harris combining for five 3-pointers in the second half. The Tigers missed all eight of their attempts from behind the arc in the first half. A 10-4 Salem run cut the lead to 55-46 with 8:20 left. But, Mount Olive consistently got back to the stripe for five makes before a basket by Holloway, after his own blocked shot, helped the Trojans go up by 14 two minutes later.

Guards Melvin Creddle and Horton fouled out with a 30-second stretch in the middle of one more Salem spurt that trimmed the margin to five inside of 1:30 left. From there, Mount Olive put the game away at the line - making 12-of-16.

The Tigers' leading scorers Shan McKie and David Watson scored 10 points each, but shot just 5-of-20 from the field.

Despite the loss, Salem coach Clark Maloney was pleased with his teams ability to erase substantial deficits in both halves.

"The kids were not going to quit. That's not my make-up and there was no way they were going to give up," Maloney said. "We came out flat and Mount Olive took full advantage of it.

"They did all the right things and we did all the wrong things. The better team won. They stepped up and played good basketball."

Mount Olive shot just 36.7 percent from the floor before intermission, but played consistent defense as Coffield paced the scoring. The 6-foot-3 guard from Williamston made four 3-pointers and pulled down five rebounds to stake Mount Olive to a 27-11 advantage 11 minutes into the game.

In the next six minutes, Salem countered with a 13-1 stretch after a jumper by Harris. The Trojans never led by more than six the rest of the half as a tip-in by Salem near the buzzer made it 33-30 going into the locker room.

Trojan junior Victor Young, named to the all-tournament team, added three of his five steals in the first half and contributed 11 points total.

Salem center Maurice Allen scored all eight of his points in the first half and proved effective during the Tigers' first half run. Allen quickly got into foul trouble in the second half and did not have another attempt from the field or free throw line.

Salem's McKie and Harris fouled out.

With Creddle and Horton on the bench, freshman Montel Jones gave the Trojans' nine, solid minutes in the backcourt.

"For a freshman, he stepped up and played real well," Clingan said. "He came in the game and gave us such a good lift. It's tough for a freshman to step up in that situation."

Notes: MOC outscored its opponents 79.3-71.6 during the regional. Coffield averaged 18.6 points per game, while Young scored at a 17.6 clip. Holloway added 10.6 per night. Two of Mount Olive's opponents shot less than 42 percent from the field (Indiana and Salem). The Trojans scored 74 points in the three games combined off of turnovers to 29 by the opposition. Mount Olive was outrebounded by nine against Millersville, Indiana and Salem.