03/15/06 — Mount Olive seniors leave their mark

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Mount Olive seniors leave their mark

By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on March 15, 2006 2:42 PM

The word legacy can be defined as something immaterial, usually a style or philosophy, that is passed from one generation to another.

Mount Olive's 2005-2006 class of seniors posted numbers that were nothing short of impressive and set a high standard for future Trojans.

Three straight NCAA Division II East Regional berths and a trip to the Elite Eight in 2005 ... A combined Carolinas-Virginia Athletics Conference winning percentage of .775 ... a school-record 95 wins in four years against only 30 losses overall (a .784 clip).

Victor Young, Maurice Horton, Melvin Creddle and Chuckie Jefferson will go down as the seniors who gave Mount Olive College, already with respectability in the region, national prominence.

On top of that, there was a fervor, tenacity and crowd-pleasing nature in their games that seemed to be contagious. Alley-oop dunks, improbable runs and just as important, smiles on the faces of the players, coaches and fans, became the norm at Kornegay Arena and on the road.

Sure, loss number 30 stung pretty bad Monday night against archrival Barton in the semifinals of the 2006 East Regional.

Understandably, it hurt.

The pain and shock -- as much a part of March Madness as the joy and exuberance -- was written on the Trojans' faces not long after the Bulldogs erased an 11-point deficit in the waning minutes to claim their fourth win of the season over Mount Olive.

But like every time they took the floor for coach Bill Clingan, there was never a lack of effort.

Young, who scored in double figures in all seven NCAA tourney games during his career, finished with a game-high 31 points -- including a monster second half where he scored 21 points. The Goldsboro graduate had 10 of Mount Olive's 19 points in a seven-minute stretch, capping a 19-8 run that put Mount Olive in position to pull

"I just wanted to get to the basket and get by them and also create for my teammates," Young said.

Creddle and Horton were, as usual, consistent with 14 and 11 points, respectively. The backcourt duo combined for nine rebounds as Creddle had a game-high four steals. Horton did a solid job defending Barton's fleet-footed point guard, Anthony Atkinson, who managed just 13 points on 2-of-11 shooting.

Not surprisingly, the ball was in the slick-dribbling Creddle's hands for the final shot with Mount Olive down by one. Also typically, Horton, a 6-foot-0 guard, leaped high off the floor for a rebound or shot at a tip-in as the ball bounced off the backboard and fell to the floor. Giving it his all, Horton was on the floor too.

"They fought back numerous times against teams with a height advantage ... teams that were stronger than us," Clingan said. "The intestinal fortitude this team had was enormous. They surprised me so many times."

And Jefferson, averaging just less than three points per game, turned in a career-best effort off the bench. With starting forwards Elijah Rouse and Chris Bartley in foul trouble, Jefferson stepped up with 10 huge points with four rebounds (two offensive) and one block. Without Jefferson, who logged 13 minutes, Mount Olive would have likely never built a double-digit lead.

"I was just waiting for my turn. I'm always ready and waiting for my name to be called," Jefferson said. "I'm just glad I could contribute."

"Chuckie played big. I really appreciate how he came in and gave us that boost," Horton echoed.

When Clingan's successful coaching career is over, hopefully not anytime soon, it is certain he will look back on the 2005-2006 class of seniors with an immense sense of pride.

"What can you say when you've had the opportunity to coach these seniors. It was a tremendous run ... coaching these guys was a great thrill and experience for me," Clingan said.

Young and his teammates will also remember the past four years with fondness.

"I just thank God for the coaching staff and all the players. Not just on the court, but off," Young said. "We have great friendships, and I've enjoyed every moment. It's rare that someone can say that."

Rare is one way to describe this quartet of players. Exceptional would be more appropriate.