Trojan men oust archrival Barton
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on March 7, 2008 2:42 PM
MOUNT OLIVE -- Throughout the season, Mount Olive enjoyed a lengthy stay in the NABC Division II top 25 poll and eventually seized the top slot in the East Region rankings.
Within a 14-day period, however, the Trojans endured two staggering losses and found themselves perched on the NCAA tournament bubble. That bubble burst Thursday evening, but not for Mount Olive.
Conference Carolinas player of the year Brandon Streeter scored 14 of his 19 points in the second half as the Trojans upended Barton 79-71 in their semifinal-round, tournament game at Kornegay Arena. Top-seeded Mount Olive (23-6 overall) entertains third-seeded Queens University in the title game Saturday at 7 p.m.
The Bulldogs, the reigning national champions, concluded the year 19-10. The loss severely damaged Barton's chance of returning to the Big Dance and defending its national title.
Streeter snatched a career-high 21 rebounds for Mount Olive, which won for the just the 13th time in 32 meetings against its archrival. Kendrick Easley added 18 points and played a team-leading 35 minutes.
Senior Brian Leggett paced Barton with a double-double -- 15 points, 14 rebounds. Shooting guard Bobby Buffaloe provided 20 points, while Errol Frails contributed 13.
Mount Olive built a 10-point lead late in the opening half, but Barton shaved the deficit to six points just before intermission. The Bulldogs converted four of their first five field goals to start the second half and climbed within 43-41.
The Trojans attempted to pull away again, but Barton pecked away on each possession. Buffaloe tied the game at 60-60 with a reverse layup.
"Our defensive transition was bad," said Easley.
Streeter converted two offensive putbacks and crumbled to the floor after the second score. He slightly twisted his right knee and walked off the court without any assistance. The 6-foot-6 forward returned a minute later after Mount Olive burned a timeout with a 64-62 lead.
"We encouraged them to step it up on defense and what a crucial time it is to play defense, but we also needed to go out and do a better job boxing out on the boards," Clingan said to his team during the 60-second break.
Easley added the Trojans picked up their defensive intensity and made sure they covered every Bulldog on the court. Mount Olive made Barton burn energy on each possession as it attempted to find an open shot.
Craig Hayes and Easley combined for four free throws put the Trojans up 68-63 with 5:38 left in regulation. The Dogs pulled within three points on two occasions, but couldn't get any closer.
Barton went the final four minutes without a field goal.
Streeter delivered the Trojans' last five points, including an emphatic two-handed dunk with nine ticks left on the clock.
"Their guys played hard, but they were tired," said Clingan. "I feel like we were in better shape in the end. We played some outstanding defense when we needed to play it.
"They stepped up ... pulled together as a team tonight and I'm really proud of them."
Mount Olive beat Barton for the second time at home this season.
"The rivalry builds up the tension, but when you really think about it, it's just another game," said Easley. "With them being the defending national champions (this season), we've always gone out there trying to knock them out."
The Trojans did this time.
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