Mount Olive advance in CVAC tourney
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on March 1, 2007 2:34 PM
MOUNT OLIVE -- "Pick it up and have fun."
Senior Elijah Rouse, in so many words, offered that advice to his Mount Olive College teammates during halftime of Wednesday evening's contest against Coker (S.C.) College.
The Trojans undoubtedly felt pressured to perform well and not jeopardize their NCAA playoff hopes. The contest was also the final appearance for Rouse and fellow seniors Elton Coffield, Chris Bartley and Paulius Dziugelis at Kornegay Arena.
"We just needed to stop focusing on that it was our last home game and that we had something to play for," said Rouse. "At halftime, we realized that without a win, we can't go on. I didn't want my senior season to end like this."
Rouse took his own advice. The Kinston native scored eight of his 18 total points in a key second-half run and the second-seeded Trojans prevailed 88-62 in the quarterfinal round of the Carolinas-Virginia Athletics Conference tournament.
Mount Olive (22-6 overall) opposes third-seeded Queens University in the semifinals Friday at Pfeiffer University. The Trojans enter the contest ranked No. 7 in the final Division II East Region poll, while Queens is eighth. Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m.
The Trojans presented head coach Bill Clingan with career win No. 300. Clingan is just the second Mount Olive coach to reach the 300-victory plateau in the school's prestigious athletics history. Carl Lancaster, who directs the baseball program, surpassed the 600-win mark last spring.
"Those 300 victories came with a lot of assistant coaches and players who came through the program," said a modest Clingan. "I appreciate everyone who has partaked in all those victories."
Mount Olive had to work for the milestone.
The Trojans attempted to pull away early in the opening half. Coffield's 3-pointer off Rouse's assist sparked a 7-2 run and led to a 15-7 advantage. But Coker, the No. 10 seed, rallied to within 17-15.
Brandon Streeter's jumper off Coffield's assist spearheaded an 11-2 surge. Kendrick Easley capped the run with back-to-back baskets and Mount Olive led 30-17 with 2:48 left before halftime.
"They always play hard and tonight they played a little extra hard because they didn't have anything to play for except to knock us off," said Rouse. "That would be a big accomplishment for them. They did what they usually do and played pretty good."
The 10th-seeded Cobras matched the Trojans possession for possession after the run, and trailed 37-26 at the break.
"We had some good defensive stops in the opening half, but on the other end, we just couldn't put it together," said Clingan. "We had a lot of shots that wouldn't go in the hole. We were taking some shots out of the offense.
"People did not know when the shots were coming, so consequently no one was going to the boards. I think they were anxious. Everybody wanted to make it happen right now."
At halftime, Clingan emphasized patience and executing the inside-outside game so players could get into position to rebound. Rouse, meanwhile, encouraged his teammates to relax and just play.
Coker climbed within 41-31 early in the second half. Rouse drained back-to-back free throws and assisted Lydell Walker (14 points) on a layup underneath.
Montel Jones added a basket to make it 47-33. Jason Fulwood responded with a 3-pointer, but Mount Olive scored 14 of the next 22 points. Rouse knocked down three baskets and helped put the Trojans comfortably ahead 63-41.
"I knew if I turned up (the intensity), the rest of the guys would turn it up," said Rouse. "I decided to lead and they followed me. I appreciate them for that."
Mount Olive grabbed its biggest lead, 83-55, on Rouse's dunk -- his final field goal of the game. The Trojans outscored the Cobras 32-6 in the paint and owned a decisive 19-3 advantage in second-chance points.
Rouse and Coffield shared game-high scoring honors and led the Trojans to their 12th consecutive victory -- and 18th overall -- against Coker since 1997-98. Rouse, Coffield, Bartley and Dziugelis combined for a stellar 55-5 career record at home.
Justin Melton added nine points, six assists, seven rebounds and three steals in 28 minutes of action. Streeter supplied nine points, five rebounds and three assists.
Abram Ludd 3 0 0-0 6, Boycho Branzon 1 3 0-0 11, Blake Terrell 0 0 0-0 0, Lukas Varga 1 1 2-2 7, Jason Fulwood 0 3 4-4 13, Ben Brim 2 1 0-0 7, Ryan Fulwood 1 0 3-4 5, Joel Hafner 4 1 2-3 13, Chaz Smith 0 0 0-0 0, Michael Gore 0 0 0-0 0, Sebastian Lacayo 0 0 0-0 0. TOTALS -- 12 9 11-13 62.
MOUNT OLIVE (22-6)
Elijah Rouse 6 1 3-3 18, Lydell Walker 5 1 1-2 14, Kendrick Easley 3 0 1-1 7, Montel Jones 2 0 0-0 4, Justin Melton 3 1 0-0 9, Paulius Dziugelis 0 0 0-0 0, Brandon Streeter 4 0 1-2 9, Elton Coffield 2 4 2-2 18, Josh Brown 3 0 0-0 6, Chris Bartley 0 1 0-0 3. TOTALS -- 28 8 8-10 88.
Halftime -- Mount Olive 37-26. 3-point goals -- MOC 8-18, Coker 9-31. Rebounds -- MOC 39 (Wlaker, Melton, Coffield 7), Coker 26 (Branzon 8). Assists -- MOC 26 (Melton 6), Coker 16 (Terrell, R. Fulwood, Hafner 3). Turnovers -- MOC 11, Coker 18. Blocked shots -- MOC 3 (Walker 2), Coker 0. Steals -- MOC 13 (Rouse 4), Coker 4. A -- 325.
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