02/11/10 — MOC men, Barton women face high stakes

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MOC men, Barton women face high stakes

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on February 11, 2010 1:54 PM

The rematch is here.

The stakes are higher this time.

Long-time rivals Mount Olive and Barton square off tonight with shares of Conference Carolinas championships on the line at Wilson Gym. The Trojan men and Bulldog women, each in position to clinch a piece of regular-season supremacy, won their previous respective meetings.

The women tip-off at 5:30 p.m.

Since their loss to Mount Olive, the Barton men have endured six consecutive defeats. The preseason pick to win the regular-season crown, the Dogs have suffered countless injuries and competed without preseason All-American L.J. Dunn, who received a medical redshirt.

The series is tied 17-17 since 1998 and the Trojans have prevailed in four of the last six meetings. However, Mount Olive hasn't won on Barton's homecourt since 2005.

Mike Holloman and Kendrick Easley spearheaded second-half runs as Mount Olive turned back pesky Coker (S.C.) College on Monday evening. The duo combined for 39 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists and six steals.

Easley continues to lead the league in scoring at nearly 24 points a game. He's inching closer to the school's all-time career scoring record held by current Southern Wayne head boys' basketball coach Russell Stephens, who played at MOC when it was an NAIA school.

The Trojans (17-5 overall, 14-1 CC) deflected numerous passes and disrupted the Cobras' offense in the second half. Mount Olive collected 24 points off 23 Coker turnovers, which helped turn a one-point halftime lead into a 17-point triumph.

"When we're active (on defense), we can really guard," said second-year Trojans head coach Joey Higginbotham. "When we don't guard and we're not active, we allow teams to play with us, (we) blow leads and (we) run in spurts."

The Trojan women are starting to find their identity.

Meaghan Vanderhorst has become an offensive threat during the past couple of weeks. The Farmville Central alum buried four triples in a 15-point outing against Coker. Teammates Helen Moore and Laporsha Davis provided 19 and 18 points, respectively, as the Trojans remained among the top three in the conference standings.

Mount Olive won the rebound battle 35-32 and coerced Coker into 31 turnovers.

"We were able to block out on missed shots that maybe we usually get stuck on and I think that's showing a little bit of maturity," said Trojans head coach Wendy Lee after the Coker game. "We got a little more comfortable with ourselves. We've been trying to find ourselves all year and I think now, in the last two or three games, we're figuring out who we are and what we're good at doing.

"Maybe we can string some wins together."

Barton used a late second-half run to defeat MOC on Jan. 21.

The Bulldogs are in position to repeat as regular-season champions and secure just their third title overall with Wendee Saintsing as head coach.