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|Panthers edge Methodist, pull even in league title race|
Methodist (N.C.) University’s Austin Pack (24) and Kyle Combs (33) try to stop a drive to the basket by Ferrum College’s Brian Clarke (3) during the first half of a 76-71 Panthers’ victory at William P. Swartz Gymnasium Saturday. (Staff Photo by Steven Marsh)
Monday, February 11, 2013
By STEVEN MARSH - Sports Editor
FERRUM -- Ferrum College's first men's basketball victory over Methodist (N.C.) University since the 2010-11 campaign came with a bonus.
The Panthers (8-3 in the USA South, 11-9 overall) are tied for first place in the league standings with three games to play.
Ferrum, which had lost four straight games to the Monarchs (6-6 in the USA South, 9-12 overall), put an end to that dubious streak with a 76-71 conference triumph at William P. Swartz Gymnasium Saturday.
And courtesy of LaGrange (Ga.) College's 73-68 upset of Christopher Newport University (CNU) in Georgia, the Panthers and the Captains are deadlocked at the top.
CNU, the conference's reigning champion, was the league's preseason title favorite, which Ferrum was projected to finish eighth in the nine-team league.
The Captains and the Panthers will face each other in the 2013 regular-season finale this Sunday at Swartz Gym.
"We're playing for a championship. Our Wednesday game (at Averett University) is very important,' Ferrum senior guard Marshall Hamilton said.
The Averett game is Ferrum's final road regular-season contest. The Panthers entertain Maryville (Tenn.) College the day before the CNU contest.
"The way we've been playing at home in the conference (Ferrum is 5-0 in league play at Swartz Gym), if we keep that up, that's a good sign,' Hamilton said. "That's why Wednesday is so important. We've struggled a little bit on the road.
"Right now, to me, every game is a championship game because every game matters,' Hamilton said.
"We're just trying to win Wednesday and see what happens,' Ferrum head coach Bill Tharp said. "We'll see where we are at (after Averett).
"We have struggled as of late with our mid-week road games. ...Hopefully, we can get (a win at Averett) and that will give us some momentum going into the weekend,' Tharp said.
The Captains, on the other hand, host North Carolina Wesleyan Wednesday and stop in Danville for a Saturday game against Averett.
With Saturday's win, Ferrum avenges a 13-point, 73-60 loss to Methodist in Fayetteville, N.C.
"We needed a 'W.' "(Methodist) had our number last year and they got us at their place,' Tharp said. "It was really important that we came out and played hard to get this win.'
Methodist defeated Ferrum three times last year. Two of those wins came at Swartz Gym. The last of those was in the quarterfinals of the USA South's postseason tournament.
Ferrum got a game-best 20 points from freshman J.D.Wallace; he was 3 of 4 from 3-point range as the Panthers swished 5 of 10 tries from the long-distance arc.
Jamal Pullen finished with 17 points and Lamont King netted 14.
Ferrum got 21 points from four reserves who saw action. Of that quartet, freshman Josh Bruce tallied nine points in 18 minutes, and senior Charles Warren, who was 4 of 6 from the field, scored eight.
The Panthers responded to a 45-44 second-half deficit with a 12-0 run. Wallace netted the first five points of that spurt, then Bruce matched him with a trey and a deuce in succession. King finished the run at 8:58 with a basket.
Methodist closed the gap to four points on three occasions (57-53, 61-57 and 65-61) and was three points in arrears, 67-64, after a basket by Bryan Hockaday (18 points) with 2:44 to play.
Following a Monarchs' time out, Warren ignited the Panthers' next charge with dunk courtesy of an assist from Hamilton.
A Pullen basket and a Bruce free throw made the count 72-64 with 1:26 to play.
Four straight Ferrum misfires from the free-throw line, two each by Wallace and Hamilton, kept the Monarchs alive and with 29.8 seconds the spread was four, 72-68.
Then, Ferrum found its free-throw shooting stroke as Wallace and Pullen combined to hit four in a row to secure the win.
Hamilton (5) and Brian Clarke (4) started at guard for Ferrum and combined to pass out nine assists, one more than Methodist had as a team.