Dogs tackle Trojans, earn automatic berth
By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on March 5, 2012 1:48 PM
MOUNT OLIVE -- Barton accomplished something Sunday afternoon that no other team had done all season -- hand Mount Olive a loss at Kornegay Arena.
Gerald Boston poured in 34 points in a 67-60 win over the Trojans, and the Bulldogs claimed the Conference Carolinas' automatic bid to the NCAA Division II Southeast Regional on Sunday afternoon.
The opening stages of the game were played at a frantic pace as both teams seemed content to play in transition. Jordan McCain and Derek Staton each knocked down 3-pointers as the Trojans built a 12-10 lead.
Boston scored eight early points for the Bulldogs
Barton began to attack the interior of Mount Olive's defense and beat the Trojans to loose balls. Joseph Velez's free throws, Keith Manley's layup and Jaren Haley's 3-pointer gave Barton a 22-15 lead.
The Trojans (21-8 overall) continued to chip away at the deficit and Craig Hayes' jump shot pulled Mount Olive to within 26-25. McCain's free throws with 14 seconds left in the first half gave the Trojans a 31-30 lead at intermission.
Recently named the conference's player of the year, Hayes led Mount Olive with 11 first-half points. He finished with 20 points and seven rebounds in his final home game.
"This opportunity to play one last game at home means a lot," Hayes said. "Obviously, I wanted to win. We had to rally back and we made a few comebacks and a few things didn't go our way, but we've still got games to play."
The tournament's most valuable player, Boston continued to assert himself offensively as Barton scored eight unanswered points early in the second half. The junior from Burlington sank a 3-pointer and added a layup.
Manley converted a three-point play as the Bulldogs took a 40-36 lead. Boston added a pair of free throws and a reverse layup in transition. Evan Shelton's bucket off an offensive rebound pushed the margin to 50-42 with fewer than 11 minutes left to play.
Aaron Brown's layup off a turnover capped a 12-0 run as Barton's lead swelled to 54-42.
"That was a big stretch when we tied it at 42-42, I thought we had some momentum and then we kind of lost it," Mount Olive head coach Joey Higginbotham said. "Boston's very tough. He's tough to guard and when the game is called tight, it makes even harder for you. He's carrying them right now."
The Trojans closed to within 58-52 as McCain made one of two free throws with fewer than five minutes to play. Mount Olive would get no closer. The Bulldogs (20-9) sank seven of eight free throws over the final three minutes to seal the win.
Mahamed Ibrahim scored 12 points for the Trojans and McCain added 10. Staton scored nine points in his last game at Kornegay Arena.