The giant that looms over South Atlantic Conference men’s basketball came up as big as usual on Sunday.
The No. 2 nationally ranked Lincoln Memorial Railsplitters – winners of the last four SAC regular season titles – brought home the tournament trophy for the second time in three years with a 95-83 victory over the Wingate Bulldogs in the championship game at Furman University.
But Wingate coach Brian Good was satisfied that his team, minus one little detail, had given the conference’s Goliath about as good a shot as it could.
“We played hard enough to have a chance to win, but we just needed to make more shots. Thirty-seven percent (shooting from the field) wasn’t enough against a team this good,” Wingate coach Brian Good said.
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Junior forward Isaiah Cureton scored a game-high 22 points and pulled down seven rebounds for the No. 3-seeded Bulldogs (22-9), one of five players in double figures.
But Wingate didn’t have an answer for the multitalented Railsplitters (29-2), led by 20 points each from forward Dorian Pinson and guard Luquon Choice.
The victory gives Lincoln Memorial the conference’s automatic bid, and Good was hopeful about Wingate’s chances for an at-large bid. The Division II tournament field was to be late Sunday.
Lincoln Memorial took the lead for good at 17-14 on a 3-pointer by Choice after a cold-shooting, back-and-forth first 8-1/2 minutes from both teams. The Railsplitters led 50-34 at halftime, but Wingate trimmed it to six at 57-51 after a three by Xavier Griffin and a dunk by Keith Griffin five minutes into the second half before Lincoln Memorial pulled away again,
“We were getting the shots we wanted, but they just weren’t falling,” Cureton said. “We played good enough defense to stay in the game.”
Three who mattered
Luquon Choice, Lincoln Memorial: Hit four of his first five shots in a 12-point first half.
Dorian Pinson, Lincoln Memorial: Even with a 20-point game, his rebounding was probably a bigger contribution. Twelve of his 13 boards came on the defensive side. As a comparison, Wingate’s entire team had 21 defensive rebounds.
Isaiah Cureton, Wingate: Scored 20 of his 22 points after halftime and sparked the Bulldogs’ last rally to within six points midway through the second half.
They said it
“We’re playing the game really hard right now – rebounding and defending well. The key for us is to just keep working and we’ll see where we can go.” – Wingate coach Brian Good
▪ Mike Baez, Keith Griffin and Xavier Griffin each had 15 points for Wingate, and Zeriq Lolar added 10 points off the bench for the Bulldogs, who were playing in the championship game for the first time since 2013.
▪ Senior guard Gerel Simmons scored 19 points for Lincoln Memorial, and guard Jalen Steele added 15.
▪ In the women’s championship game, Wingate lost most of a 22-point fourth-quarter lead but hung on to beat top-seeded Anderson 67-61 to earn an automatic bid to the Division II tournament. Kristina Rumplasch scored 16 points, and tournament MVP Shelby Tricoli added 13 for the No. 3-seed Bulldogs (21-8), who have won 11 straight.