03/03/10 — Top-seeded Trojans dispatch Cobras

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Top-seeded Trojans dispatch Cobras

By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on March 3, 2010 1:47 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- A special night inside Kornegay Arena ended in storybook fashion for Kendrick Easley and the Mount Olive College men's basketball team.

Easley poured in 29 points to became the program's all-time leading scorer. The top-seeded Trojans cruised past Coker (S.C.) College 95-75 in the opening round of the Conference Carolinas men's basketball tournament.

"This is a good win over a quality opponent on a night where there was a lot of emotion," said Trojans head coach Joey Higginbotham. "We traded baskets early on, but after the first media timeout I thought our guys got focused and came to play."

Trailing 13-10 just six minutes into the opening half, the Trojans responded with a 22-0 run that spanned five-plus minutes. Easley scored his historic basket during that stretch, a 3-pointer from near the top of the key, which made him Mount Olive's career scoring leader with 2,187 points.

The previous record (2,165 points) was held by current Southern Wayne High School head coach Russell Stephens.

Down 48-26 with three minutes left in the first half, the Cobras responded with a 10-0 run of their own. Ricardo Smith sank a pair of shots and was followed by four consecutive points by Ryan Aijan.

"I thought we did a good job of getting to the glass and getting some key rebounds in the first half," said Higginbotham. "After the break we were able to put the game away."

Craig Hayes opened the second half with a pair of 3-pointers that ignited a 19-2 scoring spree by the Trojans that spelled disaster for the Cobras.

With the game in hand, both coaches found time for their reserves. A total of 28 players saw court time in the second half. Nine different Trojans scratched the scoring column.

Craig Hayes added 16 points and five rebounds. Lemonte Theus added 13 points and Derek Staton finished with 12.

Mount Olive, ranked No. 2 in the Division II Southeast Region poll, advances to play Pfeiffer in the tournament semifinals on Friday night. The Falcons defeated Queens University 112-93.

"We know what we are going to get with Pfeiffer," said Higginbotham. "It's going to be fast, and it's going to come down to guarding people and being able to take advantage when we get a good shot."

The Trojans won both regular-season meetings between the two squads. Mount Olive earned a 114-105 win at home and posted a 136-128, overtime victory on the road.

Notes: The Trojans had 21 assists as team on 35 field goals. ... Theus finished with 13 points, seven rebounds and four steals in 22 minutes. ... MOC scored 23 points off 22 Coker turnovers and grabbed its biggest lead, 77-49, midway through second half. ... Each team shot better than 50 percent from floor for the game, but the Trojans converted 55 percent of shots from 3-point line compared to 31 percent for Coker.