Kendall Hargrove and JaQuan Blount both hit 2-of-2 free throws in the final 13 seconds and nationally 13th-ranked University of Mount Olive rallied from a 10-point halftime deficit as the Trojans extended their winning streak to 14 in a row with a 59-56 victory over Emmanuel College in Conference Carolinas men's basketball Thursday at Kornegay Arena. With the win, Mount Olive won the regular season conference title outright and clinched the No. 1 seed in the Conference Carolinas Men's Basketball Tournament.
Mount Olive (25-2 overall, 18-1 Conference Carolinas) opened the second half with an 11-2 run as Dontrell Brite's three-pointer with 15:06 left to play pulled the Trojans within 35-34. The Trojans missed on three possessions to take the lead and Emmanuel built the lead to 42-36 on a basket by Michael Stanley with 10:36 remaining.
The Trojans made another run as James Rucker hit a layup in between a pair of 1-of-2 trips to the line by Mount Olive. Brite's three-pointer with 7:17 remaining gave the Trojans their first lead of the night at 43-42. Hargrove added a pair of free throws on a flagrant foul to cap Mount Olive's 9-0 run.
Emmanuel (15-10, 11-7) came back to tie the game 47-47 on Zach Vess' dunk with 4:22 left to play. After Brite put Mount Olive back on top with a pair of free throws, Emmanuel tied the game again at 49-49 on Patrick McCrary's putback with 3:04 remaining.
Blount put Mount Olive ahead to stay with a layup with 2:11 remaining and after a defensive stop, Brite found Hargrove all alone on the left baseline for a two-handed dunk to give the Trojans their first two-possession lead at 53-49 with 1:51 remaining. Hargrove blocked a shot on Emmanuel's next possession, but Mount Olive was unable to capitalize and Stanley scored for Emmanuel to pull the Lions within a basket with 1:12 remaining.
Brite answered with a floater in the lane with 39 seconds remaining, but Stanley came back with a scoop shot off the right glass to pull Emmanuel within 55-53 with 19 seconds remaining.
Hargrove drew a foul and sank both free throws with 13 seconds left, the second shot coming after an Emmanuel timeout. The Lions struck right back as Stanley hit a three-pointer with 7.8 seconds left to cut the Trojans' lead to 57-56. Blount was fouled immediately and hit both free throws with 6.5 seconds remaining.
Emmanuel had a chance to tie the game and force overtime on Stanley's three-point attempt from the top of the key with a defender on him was on target. But the ball caromed off the front of the rim at the buzzer.
After the conclusion of the game, the two teams came together in the middle of the court in a prayer circle.
In the first half, Luke Miller a three-pointer on Emmanuel's first possession of the game and the Lions raced off to a 10-4 lead. Jordan McCain's three-pointer with 12:40 left before halftime pulled Mount Olive within 14-11, but the Trojans would get no closer than three the remainder of the half.
A three-pointer by Jeremy Burgess highlighted a 7-0 run for Emmanuel and the Lions took their first double-digit lead at 29-19 with 5:51 left in the first half. Mount Olive closed within six after baskets by Dominique Reed and Brite, but Emmanuel answered with baskets 20 seconds apart by Kurtis Robinson and Stanley as the Lions went into the locker room with a 33-23 lead at intermission.
Brite scored 11 of his team-high 17 points in the second half, while Blount finished with 13 points. Hargrove tallied eight points, six rebounds, five blocks and four steals. Reed pulled down a game-high eight rebounds. After hitting only 2-of-5 free throws in the first half, Mount Olive was 16-for-20 from the line in the second half.
Stanley led all scorers with 25 points on 10-for-15 shooting for Emmanuel.
Thursday's game was Senior Night for Hargrove and McCain, along with student assistant Jared Bass.
Mount Olive was already assured of hosting a quarterfinal-round game in the conference tournament February 28. If the Trojans win their opening round contest, Kornegay Arena will be the site of the semifinals and championship game March 7-8.
Mount Olive concludes regular season play Tuesday as the Trojans travel to Wilson, N.C., to take on Barton in a Conference Carolinas match-up. The Trojans defeated the Bulldogs 89-73 in the first meeting February 4 at Kornegay Arena. Tip-off is 7:30 p.m.