Photo Courtesy of Jacob Turner
BANNER ELK, N.C. – The Lees-McRae College men's basketball team punched its ticket to the Conference Carolinas Championship game for the first time in program history Saturday afternoon with a 110-95 victory over Barton in the semifinal round of the Conference Carolinas men's basketball tournament at Williams Gymnasium. The victory boosts Lees-McRae's record to 22-8 overall on the 2017-18 campaign.
The Bulldogs definitely shot the ball well enough against the Bobcats in the opening half. Barton shot 52.8 from the field compared to a 47.1 percent mark put forth by LMC. The difference in the first half, however, came at the free throw line. Lees-McRae connected on 12 of 15 attempts from the charity stripe, while the Bulldogs only made nine trips to the line with four makes. The difference from the line paid off right at the end of the first half as three made free throws by Jordan Turner gave the Bobcats a three-point lead at the break, 50-47.
After the two teams returned to the court following halftime, the Bobcats darted out to a nine-point lead, 59-50, in under three minutes. Lees-McRae used a combination of improved shooting from the field (54.1 percent compared to 47.1) and rebounding (out-rebounded Barton 23-14 in the second half) to force the Bulldogs to play catch up for the rest of the game. LMC, which outscored Barton 60-48 in the second half, led by as many as 17 points in the final 20 minutes before settling for a 15-point victory, 110-95, to advance to Sunday's championship game.
Lees-McRae had six different players finish in double figures Saturday and three of those scored 20 points or more. Jason Saintizaire led the way with 21 points, while Quay Kimble and Jordan Turner both added 20 points of their own. Lepreece Lynch scored 15 with a team-high nine rebounds. Josh Gaither and Kamil Williams rounded out LMC's double digit scorers with 10 and 11 points, respectively.
The Bobcats will look to clinch their first ever trip to the NCAA Tournament tomorrow afternoon when they host eighth-seeded Belmont Abbey in the Conference Carolinas Championship game. The Crusaders have knocked off top seed King and fifth seed Limestone to earn their spot in Sunday's title game. Tip-off is set for 2 p.m. from Williams Gymnasium.