02/25/07 — Trojan men victorious on senior night

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Trojan men victorious on senior night

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on February 25, 2007 2:18 AM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Senior Day has its good -- and bad -- traits.

It's a celebration to honor seniors who have made significant contributions to a program over an extended period of time. And the tradition also dictates that seniors start their final home game.

Of course, when that happens, team chemistry is altered and causes sluggish results. Such was the case Saturday afternoon as four Mount Olive College seniors, two who normally come off the bench in reserve roles, took the court before a boisterous Kornegay Arena crowd.

While they played hard and provided numerous moments of excitement, the 600-plus fans in attendance sat in angst during the 40-minute Carolinas-Virginia Athletics Conference affair. None could breathe a sigh of relief until the host Trojans thwarted Anderson's upset bid 68-60.

"When you have senior night, you've got a whole different lineup in there," said Mount Olive men's head coach Bill Clingan. "So the team's rhythm is off to start with and our rhythm was off all night long.

"There are some emotions (on Senior Day) and sometimes you're not charged up on those type of emotions. It's more of a sad time than a happy time."

Anderson wanted nothing more than to play spoiler and hand Mount Olive, ranked No. 8 in the East Region, a damaging loss in the regular-season finale for both teams. Embarrassed by a 38-point thrashing at home more than a month ago, the visiting Trojans employed just two defenses -- a 2-3 and 1-3-1 zone -- that frustrated Clingan's team all afternoon.

The strategy coerced Mount Olive into shooting 38.2 percent from the floor, including a 25-percent clip from 3-point range. The host Trojans entered the game as the CVAC leader in two-point, field-goal percentage and total field-goal percentage.

"I guess we were just due for a (off) night," said Clingan, whose team converted a season-low 21 field goals. "They played the same defense at their place and for some reason, our guys wouldn't penetrate it. They kept passing around the perimeter, rather than passing in and out.

"They wouldn't listen. The more they did, the more it psychologically affected them."

Anderson head coach Jason Taylor applauded his guards for pushing MOC's backcourt toward the midcourt stripe and forcing them to make extra passes. The visiting Trojans surrendered few transition baskets and turned the contest into a halfcourt battle for 30-plus minutes.

"These two zones have worked really well for us," said Taylor. "The thing with a zone is you hope, with as many athletes as they have, that you get them standing a little bit.

"We did that some."

Brandon Streeter's two-handed dunk off Elton Coffield's assist gave Mount Olive its biggest lead, 52-42, with 12:48 left in the game.

Anderson needed just 88 seconds to pull within a single possession. Nathan Russell, who led all scorers with 25 points, tallied four straight points. John LeSueur canned a 3-pointer and closed the gap to 52-49 with 11:20 to go.

The teams traded mini runs during the next five-plus minutes.

Justin Melton swished a 3-pointer off Kendrick Easley's assist to give MOC breathing room at 63-55. Russell and LeSueur buried back-to-back jumpers, and Anderson trailed 63-60 with 1:56 remaining.

"We just could not gather momentum," said Clingan.

After a Streeter free throw, the teams went scoreless for the next 80 seconds. Anderson shot airballs behind the 3-point line on two straight possessions and then lost control of a loose ball underneath its own basket with 25.9 ticks left on the clock.

Easley and Elton Coffield each buried two free throws, and sealed Mount Olive's 11th home win of the season. Coffield, one of four seniors, finished with 11 points, seven rebounds and four assists.

Senior Elijah Rouse contributed a double-double -- 11 points, 10 rebounds. Chris Bartley recorded four points and three rebounds in limited action. Paulius Dziugelis, a junior athletically but senior academically, scored two points and dished out one assist.

"I can't say enough about the character of our seniors," said Clingan. "They're all going to graduate (in May) and they're all going to have great careers. I feel fortunate to have been part of their lives."

Mount Olive (21-6, 15-5) sealed the No. 2 seed for next week's season-ending CVAC tournament. The Trojans play at home Wednesday.

ANDERSON (4-23, 4-16)

Joshua Beale 0 0 2-2 2, Kris Fudzinkas 1 0 2-2 4, John LeSueur 0 3 0-0 9, J.R. Howell 4 1 0-0 11, Nathan Russell 7 3 2-3 25, Stoney Hill 0 0 2-2 2, Drew Keenan 0 0 1-2 1, Levi Ashworth 1 0 4-4 6. TOTALS -- 13 7 13-15 60.

MOUNT OLIVE (21-6, 15-5)

Elijah Rouse 4 0 3-3 11, Chris Bartley 2 0 0-0 4, Paulius Dziugelis 1 0 0-0 2, Justin Melton 2 2 2-2 12, Elton Coffield 2 1 4-4 11, Brandon Streeter 4 0 7-8 15, Kendrick Easley 0 2 2-2 8, Mike Holloman 1 0 0-0 2, Montel Jones 0 0 0-0 0, Josh Brown 0 0 0-0 0, Lydell Walker 0 0 3-4 3. TOTALS -- 16 5 21-23 68.

Halftime -- Mount Olive 39-31. 3-point goals -- MOC 5-20, Anderson 7-23. Rebounds -- MOC 43 (Rouse 10), Anderson 24 (Fudzinkas). Assists -- MOC 17 (Easley, Coffield 4), Anderson 15 (Russell 7). Turnovers -- MOC 20, Anderson 17. Blocked shots -- MOC 5 (Walker 4), Anderson 2. Steals -- MOC 9 (Rouse 4), Anderson 8 (LeSueur 3). A -- 642.