A motivated underdog gave Queens a scare Saturday afternoon.
But in the end, the Royals (12-8, 9-5) hung on for a 73-71 South Atlantic Conference victory over Tusculum at Curry Arena. Combined with Anderson’s upset win over Newberry, it left Queens in sole possession of second place in the conference standings.
Junior forward Sean Morgan scored 19 points and Rob Lewis and Jared Hendryx added 10 each for Queens, which led by 10 points in the second half but had to hold off a late rally by the visiting Pioneers (4-15, 4-10).
“We needed to be more solid down the stretch, but it was good to get the win,” Queens coach Bart Lundy said. “We’ve had a couple of games in a row where we struggled from the free throw line. And we put them on the line too much late in the game.”
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The Royals took control of a one-point game after halftime, outscoring the Pioneers 20-9 in the first eight minutes. A jump shot by Morgan with 12:15 to play gave the Royals their biggest lead to that point at 51-41.
But the Pioneers, led by 17 points from Cory Fagan (5-of-8 three-pointers), battled back. They were helped by some free throw hiccups by the Royals, who made just five of their final nine tries from the line.
Fagan’s last three closed Queens’ lead to72-71 with 1.3 seconds left. The Pioneers had a last possession after Lewis hit one of two from the free throw line, but Trey Erwin picked off a downcourt pass to seal the win.
The Pioneers, tied for next-to-last place in the conference but on a three-game winning streak coming in, gave the Royals all they could handle in a back-and-forth first half.
“Give them credit,” Lundy said. “They came in with a winning streak and some confidence and challenged us. Nothing is easy at this point in the season.”
Tusculum used a 6-for-9 performance from behind the three-point arc – including Fagan’s 4-for-4 – to lead by as many as six points before taking a 32-31 advantage into the break.
The Royals host Catawba at 8 p.m. Wednesday at Curry Arena.