Men's Hoops Drops Heartbreaker in Championship

ANDERSON, S.C. -- In a game that featured 12 ties and 23 lead changes, the top-seeded Mount Olive Trojans outlasted third-seeded Anderson, 83-80, to claim the 2010 Conference Carolinas Men's Basketball Tournament crown and the league's automatic NCAA Tournament berth. Mount Oliveís Lamonte Theus snapped an 80-80 tie by converting an old-fashioned three-point play with eight seconds on the clock and Andersonís Brandon Young was unable to connect on a potential game-tying three at the buzzer as the Trojans fell just shy of picking up their first conference tournament title. After Anderson rallied from a six-point deficit in the last 51 seconds to tie the game, Theus took the inbounds pass after an Anderson timeout. Theus held the ball above the top of the key, drove to the right side of the lane and put up a floater that went high off the glass and rattled around the rim before going in. Theus drew the foul and converted the free throw. Down, 74-72, with 3:06 left in the game, Anderson guard Kevis Cornwell dropped in a basket that knotted the score for the 22nd time of the afternoon, but Mount Olive rattled off six straight points to gain its largest lead of the contest. AU answered by scoring six unanswered points of its own behind old-fashioned three-point plays from junior forward Trey Britton and senior Tony Anderson to knot the score for the final time of the contest and 21 seconds left on the clock. Britton drew a foul on a dunk with 41.9 seconds left and converted the three-point play to make it a one-possession game. Anderson forced a turnover in the backcourt and Tony Andersonís three-point play tied the game 80-80 with 21.2 seconds remaining. Anderson (23-7), the only Conference Carolinas team to defeat Mount Olive (25-5) this season, posted a record-setting 22-win season after winning nine of its last 10 games and 10 of its last 12, while Mount Olive has won nine consecutive contests and 20 of its last 21. The title contest began as a long-range shooting contest, with Tony Anderson giving the Trojans an early lead with a 3-pointer, but Mount Oliveís Kendrick Easley, a first-team all-conference selection, answered on the other end by sandwiching a pair of treys around a 3 by AUís Stephen Cobb to knot the score for the second time on the afternoon. Britton and Cobb dropped in back-to-back baskets to push Andersonís advantage to four, but Easley connected on his third triple of the opening minutes to pull Mount Olive back within a point at 10-9 at the 15:35 mark. The homestanding Trojans briefly regained a one-point lead on a Craig Hayesí basket, with the lead changing hands eight more times over the remainder of the opening half and neither team able to open more than a five-point advantage. Mount Olive claimed a five-point lead twice in the closing three minutes of the first half, but each time Anderson reeled the Trojans back in, first on a pair of free throws from all-conference honoree Brandon Young and guard Kevis Cornwell scored AUís final four points of the half to pull Anderson within 37-35 at the break. The Mount Olive Trojans again opened a five-point cushion early in the second half, but AUís Young countered with five straight points behind a 3-pointer and another basket to knot the score for the sixth time, at 40-40, with 18:09 remaining. Easley connected on his sixth 3-pointer to give MOC a three-point lead, but Anderson refused to go away and responded with a 13-5 run to turn the deficit into a five-point lead, at 53-48, with 14:44 on the clock behind three 3s from Young and Tony Anderson. Mount Olive quickly erased the Anderson lead, but AU again eased out to another five-point advantage, with Cornwell scoring two consecutive baskets only to see the Trojans tie the score again at 60-60 on an old-fashioned three-point play from Easley. Cornwell paced four Trojans in double figures with 23 points on 10-of-15 shooting from the field, while Anderson added 14 points and Young netted 13. Taylor Shgugart, hobbled by a sore ankle, notched 10 points. Britton collected a game-high nine rebounds. Easley led all scorers with 27 points and Craig Hayes added 21 for Mount Olive. Anderson, ranked sixth in the NCAAí Southeast Region, now awaits the selection committeeís decision on if and where the Trojans will play in the NCAA tourney. The first-round games in the Southeast Regional are Saturday. The semifinals are scheduled for Sunday and the Championship Game is slated for Tuesday, March 16. The winner of the Southeast Regional advances to the Elite Eight March 24-27 in Springfield, Mass. The Division II Menís Basketball Championship selection show will be webcast on at 9:30 p.m. Eastern time tonight, expect for the West region, which will be announced Monday, March 8. Box Score
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