Queens senior guard Jarrett Stokes had it all planned out even before a loose ball landed at his feet in the closing seconds of the Royals’ game against Wingate on Monday night.
“I knew I was going to shoot it before I grabbed it,” said Stokes, who redeemed an uncharacteristically poor shooting night by drilling the game-winner with seven seconds to play, sending the Royals to an unlikely 59-58 South Atlantic Conference victory at Curry Arena.
Senior forward Josh Clyburn and junior center Nkosi Ali scored 11 points each for Queens (12-10, 10-8), which erased a 15-point deficit in the second half to win for the fourth time in five games.
The win moved the Royals into a tie with Wingate (13-9, 10-8) for sixth place as the SAC schedule enters the home stretch. The top eight teams will ge spots in the conference tournament.
Queens pulled out the win with a defensive effort that held the Bulldogs to 21.7 percent shooting from the field (5-for-23) in the second half. Wingate didn’t make a field goal in the final 10 minutes.
“We were pretty ugly all night offensively,” Royals coach Bart Lundy said. “With injuries that some of our guards are dealing with, we went with a big lineup and that helped us on defense. They struggled to score down the stretch.”
Wingate, which was led by junior guard Ryan Daye’s 12 points, led 34-27 at halftime and held its largest lead at 47-32 on Xavier Griffin’s 3-pointer with about 15 minutes to play.
But the Royals chipped away for the rest of the half and trimmed it to 58-55. But Clyburn missed an inside shot and Wingate grabbed the rebound with 17 seconds to play.
The first of several key turnovers by the Bulldogs kept Queens in the game, and Stokes made it a 58-57 game with a pair of free throws with 10.5 seconds to play. Stokes, who had hit only 3-of-10 shots, made his game-winner after the Wingate couldn’t hang on to a defensive rebound, and a contested 3-pointer at the buzzer by the Bulldogs’ Terrill Hilliard rimmed out.
“When it came down to it, I think it was just about energy,” Ali said. “We knew this was a game we needed to win.”
Stokes and senior guard David Mason scored 10 each for Queens. Isaiah Cureton, Jeff Parker and Deion Turman scored 10 each for Wingate.
Notes: The Royals’ next two games are on the road, Wednesday at Newberry and Saturday at Carson-Newman. Queens’ next home game is at 8 p.m. Feb. 26 against Catawba. …Wingate plays at Coker on Wednesday and returns home to face conference leader Lincoln Memorial on Saturday at 4 p.m.
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