College Basketball

Wingate beats Queens to reach SAC final

The Wingate Bulldogs will be playing for the South Atlantic Conference men’s basketball tournament championship today for the first time in three years.

The Queens Royals will spend the day in Charlotte waiting for an almost certain NCAA Division II tournament at-large bid when they’re announced Sunday night.

A 77-68 semifinal victory by No. 3-seeded Wingate (22-8) over Queens on Saturday at Furman University set the stage for Sunday’s title game against top seed Lincoln Memorial at 4 p.m. at Timmons Arena.

Lincoln Memorial beat Newberry 105-81 in the other semifinal game.

Mike Baez led six Wingate players in double figures with 16 points. Queens (24-6), which lost for the fourth time in five games, was led by 22 points from sophomore guard Todd Withers, who hit six 3-pointers.

“The older guys since I’ve been on the team always talked about playing for the championship and I’ve always thought I’d like to be in just one,” said junior guard Isaiah Cureton. “And now we’re here.”

Getting there wasn’t easy, as the Bulldogs had to battle to take control of a one-point game at halftime.

But 12-of-21 shooting from behind the 3-point arc and a 39-29 rebounding advantage helped the Bulldogs build as much as a 15-point advantage in the second half.

“I thought we were pretty sound defensively and made it difficult for them to score,” Wingate coach Brian Good said. “We got enough stops to get a comfort area in the second half.”

A pair of free throws by Cureton with 30 seconds left sent the Bulldogs to halftime with a 34-33 lead.

Three who mattered

Isaiah Cureton, Wingate: Scored eight of his 13 points in the first half and also contributed six rebounds and four assists.

Anthanee Doyle, Wingate: His 12 points included 4-of-5 from three-point range and he added five rebounds.

Todd Withers, Queens: Pretty much the only reliable shooting threat for the Royals on a tough night. Scored 13 points in the first half and hit 6-of-13 from behind the arc.

They said it

“We just have to be tougher — get the loose balls and rebounds and go to the rim harder.” — Withers

“We didn’t panic, but I think we pressed in the second half. We couldn’t score in the half court and they (Wingate) got eight threes in the second half, which hurt us.” — Queens coach Bart Lundy

Worth mentioning

▪ Queens senior guard Rob Lewis and senior forward Sean Morgan were named to the all-conference first team. Lenoir-Rhyne senior guard Keenan Palmore was named Player of the Year. Wingate guard Mike Baez was named to the All-Freshman team.

▪ Daniel Camps was the only Queens player besides Withers to score in double figures, with 13.

▪ Kerrigan Farley scored 14 points for Wingate and Xavier Griffin and Keith Griffin added 10 each.