03/06/08 — MOC prepares for round three

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MOC prepares for round three

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on March 6, 2008 1:49 PM

Now the stakes are higher.

Part three of the season-long, Mount Olive-Barton basketball series will take a pivotal turn this evening in the 2008 Conference Carolinas tournament semifinals.

The top-seeded Trojan men (22-6 overall) entertain the Dogs, the reigning Division II nationals champions, at Kornegay Arena. Meanwhile, the Trojan women (18-10) invade Wilson Gymnasium for a contest against archrival Barton College.

Each game tips off at 7 p.m.

"March Madness is here and it's an important game for us," said MOC men's head coach Bill Clingan. "Every team we face, it could be our last game and the same for Barton. We have to understand we're going to take their best shot and we've done that all year long."

Mount Olive plummeted to fifth in this week's Division II East Region poll, while Barton dropped out of the top 10. The Bulldogs' only chance is to win the tournament and earn the automatic bid to the postseason.

The teams split the regular-season series with each emerging victorious on its homecourt. Barton has won eight of the last nine meetings against Mount Olive and 19 of 31 overall since 1997-98.

One statistic loomed large after the Barton loss last Saturday before a nationally-televised audience. The Trojans shot an atrocious 16-of-29 at the charity stripe and they spent a majority of Sunday's practice refining that fundamental.

It paid off in a 28-of-37 effort Monday evening against Coker.

"Everyone came in and shot 100 free throws," said Clingan. "They shot 100 free throws today (Monday), will shoot 100 free throws tomorrow (Tuesday), 100 on Wednesday and so on."

The Trojans have reached the tournament finals each of the past two seasons. Clingan says a consistent 40-minute effort is necessary to keep that streak intact.

On the women's side, Mount Olive is making its first semifinal-round appearance since the mid-1990s. Barton has been a tournament finalist each of the past two seasons.

Like the men, the Trojan and Bulldog women split their regular-season series with each protecting its homecourt. Barton owns a decisive 18-4 edge against Mount Olive, but those four victories have occurred during Wendy Lee's coaching reign with the Trojans.

Post players Kendra Thomas and Sara Fleming combined for more than 40 points in the Dogs' win six days ago. Lee contends her team must play better defense and has made some adjustments after watching the game film.

"They probably played their best game last Friday and probably would have beaten most teams in our conference, even Anderson ... they played well," said Lee. "Offensively, we were not at our best. We really want to focus getting our game to where it needs to be on both ends.

"I think the girls understand more what to expect now with Thomas back in the lineup. We see more of what Barton is about."