01/23/09 — MOC men weather late surge

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MOC men weather late surge

By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on January 23, 2009 1:46 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Mount Olive and Barton scripted another chapter in their storied men's basketball rivalry Thursday evening.

And the Trojans came out on top.

Mike Holloman sank the game-winning free throw in the closing seconds of a 68-66 victory over the Bulldogs at Kornegay Arena. The teams exited tied atop the Conference Carolinas at 8-1 this season.

"This win is so big for this team," said Mount Olive head coach Joey Higginbotham. "It was exactly what we expected when these two teams take the floor."

The second-half momentum ebbed and flowed for the Trojans.

Mount Olive led 58-49 with seven minutes left in regulation when Barton's offense finally broke out. L.J. Dunn scored off an offensive rebound and Bobby Buffaloe followed by back-to-back jumpers.

Derek Staton halted the Dawgs' run with a deep 3-pointer and the teams traded baskets down the stretch.

"We tell Derek all the time that with all the minutes he's been playing, he's not a freshman anymore," said Higginbotham. "He really came up with some big shots in the second half."

Kendrick Easley drove to the baseline and sank a reverse layup that put the Trojans ahead 67-62 with 98 seconds left in regulation.

Buffaloe brought the Bulldogs (11-4 overall) back with a jumper, and after a failed Trojan possession, Aaron Suggs was fouled under the basket. Suggs made both free throws and cut the Mount Olive lead to 67-66 with 43 seconds remaining.

With the shot clock running out on the subsequent Mount Olive possession, Easley was forced to heave a desperation 3-pointer that clanged harmlessly off the rim.

Mike Holloman pulled down the Trojans' biggest rebound of the game.

"I thought they out-hustled us. They were tougher than us, and they wanted it more than we did," said Barton head coach Ron Lievense. "That was the biggest moment in the game and we missed the box-out."

The Dawgs immediately fouled and sent Holloman to the charity stripe. The forward buried the first foul shot and watched as the second bounced into Dunn's hands.

Suggs took the outlet pass and raced into the front court. The diminutive guard broke left and pulled up for a jump shot at the elbow.

The shot came up short as the final horn sounded.

"I thought it was going in," Suggs said. "I was having one of those nights where I thought everything was going in. I should have taken it to the basket.

"It was an open look, but I think I could have gone all the way to the rim."

Suggs paced the Bulldogs' offense with 25 points. David King finished with 10 points and 10 boards for the Bulldogs. Buffaloe scored all nine of his points in the second half.

Holloman led the Trojans with 17 points and nine rebounds. Staton and Easley each recorded 15 points apiece. Justin Melton added eight points and five rebounds.

"Our guys battled all night and they never let down the intensity," said Higginbotham. "Playing Barton is always emotional and exciting. Tonight was no different."

The Trojans (9-7) evened the series with the Dawgs at 16-16 since the late 1990s. Higginbotham's team begins a two-game road swing Saturday at Erskine (S.C.). Tip-off is 4 p.m.

"We have to take every game one at a time," said Holloman. "We can't let down this weekend at Erskine, because we know that anything can happen in this conference."