Brandon Bowles, Staff Writer
It is safe to say that Wednesday’s South Atlantic Conference men’s basketball tournament quarterfinals matchup between the third-seeded Bulldogs of Wingate University and the sixth-seeded Indians of Catawba College was not for the faint of heart.
The Bulldogs were able to come away with a hard-fought victory over the Indians in a 91-85 overtime thriller. This win brought the Bulldogs record to 20-9 overall (16-6 SAC). With this win the Bulldogs will face the second-seeded Royals of Queens University in the tournament semifinal matchup at 8 p.m. Saturday in Greenville, S.C.
With the loss Catawba finishes their season at 18-11 overall (12-10 SAC).
Wingate had four key contributors in Wednesday’s game. Josh Dominguez led the team with 22 points going 4-of-12 from the field (3-of-8 from three point range) and shot a perfect 11-of-11 from the free-throw line. Isiah Cureton scored 21 and was a big asset on the defensive side of the ball collecting eight rebounds along with two blocked shots. Keith Griffin scored 15 points and was a key factor around the rim blocking six shots. Anthanee Doyle scored 17 points and was deadly from behind the three point line going 4-of-6
Catawba’s Jameel Taylor led the Indians with 23 points going 8-of-19 from the field, including 6-of-6 from the free-throw line.
Both teams began the game trading baskets with one another. Cureton would hit a three-point basket giving the Bulldogs a 16-13 lead at the 13-minute mark. Catawba would then push out to a 13 point lead with the aid of a 15-4 run in the late stages of the first half. Wingate would answer back with a few baskets of their own. By the end of the first half the Bulldogs trailed 41-30.
Knowing that their season was on the line the team went into the locker room and made some much needed adjustments. “There is no 11 point shot out there we just need to take one play at a time,” said Wingate head coach Brian Good.
Dominguez was able to cut the deficit to eight early in the second half. Catawba would maintain a comfortable digit lead for the first four minutes of the second half. Then the Bulldogs made numerous attempts to cut into the lead led by Dominguez, Griffin, Cureton and Doyle. Cureton would cut the deficit to three with a layup making the score 55-52 at the 9:50 mark.
Shortly after Catawba would gain a nine-point advantage with six minutes to go in the game. With a minute to go in the game Cureton was able to secure an offensive rebound off a missed free throw from Griffin kicking it out to Doyle for a three point basket that tied the game at 73 at the end of regulation.
“The team’s mindset changed going into overtime. It gave us that extra breath of life.” Cureton said after the game.
Key free-throws were made down the stretch by Dominguez and Cureton to assure a victory for the Bulldogs. With the help of Dominguez, Cureton, Griffin and Doyle the Bulldogs were able to make one final run to defeat the Indians and move on in the SAC tournament to face Queens.
“I knew our guys needed a blow, but I felt like we could not afford not having our best players on the floor.” Said coach Good after the game.
Look for Saturday’s game with Queens to be very competitive, as the Royals look to avenge the two losses handed to them by the Bulldogs in the regular season. It’s the second straight year the two teams have met in the tournament semifinals, with the Bulldogs winning in Greenville last season.