46th annual Pickle Classic -- Trojan men turn back Virginia St.
By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on November 19, 2011 11:05 PM
MOUNT OLIVE -- Mount Olive College wrapped up the 46th annual Pickle Classic with an 84-77 win over Virginia State at Kornegay Arena on Saturday night.
The Trojans got 20 points from Derek Staton and built a large early lead.
The Trojans answered a 5-0 run by Virginia State with an 8-0 run of their own before the first media timeout. From that point, it was all Mount Olive in the opening half.
"We came out and played well in the opening minutes on the offensive end," Mount Olive head coach Joey Higginbotham said. "It was a good thing, because in the second half it looked like we were afraid to guard anyone and (Virginia State) battled all the way to the final horn."
Virginia State tried desperately to pound the ball into the lane early in the game, despite shooting a terrible percentage from in close. The visitors' worst possession of the opening half came when forwards Daniel Awosanya and Dijon Coffee each missed wide-open layups before Staton cleared the rebound and raced down the floor and buried a 3-point basket.
Staton's shot made the score 36-16 with five minutes to play in the half.
Mount Olive led 43-27 at the intermission.
"Derek was big for us," Higginbotham said. "He is a senior and he's our leader on the floor."
The second half was much like the first as each team enjoyed productive stretches offset by long periods of less-than-stellar play. Virginia State closed to within 10 points with two minutes to play when Justin Bess buried a wide-open 3-point basket in the corner.
After a basket by Mount Olive forward Kason Cheeks, Bess hit another shot from beyond the arc and cut the Mount Olive lead to 82-73. Virginia State had an opportunity to close the gap even further, but on the visitors' next possession Kenny Mitchell missed a dunk and essentially sealed the team's fate.
Mitchell led Virginia State with 19 points and nine rebounds. Ibn Rassoul added 18 points in the loss.
Mahammed Ibrahim emerged as the only other Trojan in double figures with 11 points. Dory Hines finished with nine points and a team-high seven rebounds. Ibrahim, Hines and Staton were all named to the All-Classic team.
Mount Olive (4-0 overall) travels to Lenoir-Rhyne on Monday.
Notes: In the first game of the evening, Barton cruised past Brevard College 89-55. ... Every Bulldog player that suited up appeared in the game. ... MOC Hall of Fame inductees George Kornegay, Greg Grantham, Chris McDonald, Michelle Matthews and Dawn Johnson attended the Mount Olive-Virginia State contest.
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