Banner Elk, NC--The Lees-McRae Bobcats fell 69-61 to the Tusculum Pioneers in Williams Gymnasium in non-conference action tonight. The loss halts a two-game winning streak for the Bobcats who stand at 2-6 overall (1-2 Conference Carolinas). The Pioneers are 4-5 overall, having not played any conference games on the season yet.
After coming out to a sluggish start and allowing the Pioneers to gain a 8-0 lead in the first four minutes of the game, the Bobcats rallied tying the game at 11-11 on a Mario McClunie (Knoxville, TN) field goal at 12:05.
The Bobcats continued to play hard, forcing turnovers and gelling offensively to go on a 18-7 run which put them up 29-18 after a pair of free throws by transfer Modestas Riauka (Kaunas, Lithuania) at the 3:11 mark. The Bobcats held onto the lead by capitalizing on free throw opportunities (11-12 for 91.7% for the half) and headed into the lockerroom with 31-24 cushion.
The Pioneers came out strong the second half, scoring on five of their first seven possessions to tie the score at 35-35 just a little over three minutes into the period. The Bobcats responded with a three point field goal by freshman Aaron Willey (Kingsport, TN) with an assist from Riauka to regain the lead 38-35.
A battle for the lead ensued. Lees-McRae would push ahead, building as much as a four point lead, but Tusculum, not willing to give up, would tie the game another two times before gaining a two-point lead 46-44 at the 10:53 mark on a field goal by Lavonti Jeter (Alexandria, VA).
Although the Bobcats fiercely tried to claw their way back, five turnovers in a row by the youthful team allowed the Pioneers to move ahead with a game high 13 point lead on the host team. The Bobcats, persevering to the end, cut the lead to four with thirty-five seconds remaining when Nick DeSchepper (Fishers, IN) knocked down a three on a nice feed by Aaron Woodacre (Piney Flats, TN).
However, the Bobcats battle ended when the Pioneers went 4-4 from the line in the last seconds of the game to clinch their fourth win of the season 69-61.
The Bobcats were led by freshman Raysean Hairston's (Elizabethtown, NC) 19 points and three steals. Also scoring in double figures for the Bobcats was Modestas Riauka with 12 points and eight rebounds for the night.
For the Pioneers it was Lavonti Jeter scoring 22 while Jordan Lear (Zanesville, OH) added 18 points. Jimmy Boone (Greenville, TN) had three steals and 12 points against the Bobcats.
The Bobcats travel to Jefferson City, TN to take on Carson-Newman Saturday afternoon at 4:00pm in their last game of the 2007 calendar year.
Pictured: Raysean Hairston