01/20/09 — Trojans flush Royals

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Trojans flush Royals

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on January 20, 2009 1:47 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Keep your foot on the gas.

That was Mount Olive head coach Joey Higginbotham's message to his team at halftime of their Conference Carolinas contest with Queens on Monday afternoon at Kornegay Arena.

The Trojans apparently aren't much for short-term memory as the Royals erased a 20-point, first-half deficit and grabbed a late lead before Mount Olive rallied for 73-70 victory.

Queens trimmed the 20-point margin to 44-35 at the half and used a 13-3 run to pull within 65-62 on Charles Burgess' layup with less than six minutes to play.

Sean Eads' layup cut the Trojans advantage to 67-66 and J.B. Baldwin put the Royals ahead at 70-69 with just under two minutes remaining.

"Our message in the locker room was keep the foot on the gas," said Higginbotham. "Queens came out in that zone and I thought we got a little bit methodical and we started playing timid on offense and we also played timid on defense.

"We didn't play a complete game tonight."

Craig Hayes and Kendrick Easley each drained both ends of one-and-one free-throw opportunities to give Mount Olive a 73-70 lead with 29 seconds remaining.

"We've concentrated on free throws all year and free throws lost the game to Pfeiffer," said Higginbotham. "Free throws won the game for us tonight."

David Cheek and Eads each had contested looks at game-tying 3-pointers in the final moments that fell short.

"I told our guys, 'this could be the biggest stop of the year,'" said Higginbotham. "I will say the last two defensive possessions we buckled down."

The Trojans (8-7 overall, 7-1 CC) were active in passing lanes defensively which led to 17 first-half turnovers for Queens and numerous transition opportunities for Mount Olive.

Easley knocked down a 3-pointer and followed it with a steal and dunk that jump started a 23-4 run. The outburst also featured Mike Holloman's steal and transition alley-oop to Justin Melton that left the Royals asking for a full timeout. The spurt lasted roughly seven minutes as Mount Olive grabbed a 37-17 advantage.

"We felt like we could get some pressure and run on them a little bit," said Higginbotham. "Our intensity and our energy was great. We are going to be what we are on defense. When we get defensive stops and defend the ball that's what going to make us.

"I was really pleased with the first 12 or 13 minutes of the first half. If we maintain that intensity and energy we'll be fine but we can't turn it on and off."

Queens (2-12, 1-6) responded by scoring 18 of the final 25 points of the first half. Joshua Twitty's buzzer beating jumper sliced the Trojans cushion to 44-35 at the break.

Easley led all scorers with 24 points, Holloman provided 13 and Melton added 12. Daniel Bailey paced the Royals with seven.

The Trojans host league-leading Barton at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday.