Queens had the No. 11-ranked team in Division II where few other teams have had it this season – on the proverbial ropes.
But the Royals couldn’t deliver the knockout punch, falling to South Atlantic Conference opponent Lincoln Memorial 72-71 Saturday afternoon at Curry Arena when senior guard Jarrett Stokes’ potential game-winning 14-foot jumper grazed off the rim at the buzzer.
Senior forward Josh Clyburn scored 22 points and pulled down 20 rebounds for Queens (7-7, 5-5 SAC), which lost its second straight game. Stokes scored 20 points, 14 in the second half, as the Royals battled from five points down with four minutes to play to have a shot at the upset.
Senior guard Chance Jones scored 17 points, including a 10-for-10 afternoon from the free throw line, to lead the Railsplitters (13-1, 9-1). They’ve won nine straight and haven’t lost since an 84-79 overtime setback at Anderson (S.C.) on Nov. 26.
But they left the door open for the Royals when freshman guard Curtis Webb missed a pair of free throws with 15 seconds left.
According to Queens coach Bart Lundy, the game-ending play was designed for Stokes, the team’s top scorer at 19 points a game – just not in the place where he got the ball.
“We didn’t get as good a shot as we wanted, but we got a shot with a very good player, and that’s all you can ask for,” Lundy said. “We wanted to set (Stokes) up in the left corner but a handoff wasn’t smooth and we had to chase the ball back to midcourt and then improvise.”
It was a disappointing ending to a game that had a promising start for the Royals, who led 20-9 after Brent Evans’ layup about nine minutes into the game.
But Lincoln Memorial, coached by former Queens assistant Josh Schertz, came back to trim Queens’ advantage to 35-34 at halftime.
“It was a hard fought battle, well-played by both sides,” Lundy said. “When we’re focused and we play together this is the type of game we’re capable of. We tried to give them some different looks and go hot and cold on pressure. But they responded well.”
The Railsplitters took their first lead at 38-37 on an inside basket by Vincent Bailey two minutes into the second half, but never led by more than eight points (52-44).
Evans and forward Nkosi Ali scored 10 points each for Queens. Webb scored 15, and Lorinza Ross and Bailey added 12 each for Lincoln Memorial.
Notes: The Royals host Lenoir-Rhyne at 8 p.m. Wednesday in a South Atlantic Conference game at Curry Arena.
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