GREENVILLE, SC - The 13th-ranked Railsplitters earned a shot at redemption on Saturday in Greenville, South Carolina. Behind five double-digit scorers, top-seeded Lincoln Memorial dismantled the fifth-seeded Newberry Wolves, 97-76, to advance to the title game of the 2014 Food Lion South Atlantic Conference Championship in Timmons Arena. The Railsplitters are slated to take on No.3 Anderson at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday.
For the Railsplitters (26-2), Championship Sunday provides the opportunity for a two-tiered shot at redemption as Lincoln Memorial suffered a 53-69 loss to Wingate in last year's tournament final while Anderson accounted for one of only two LMU losses this season back on January 12.
The top-seeded Railsplitters showed quickly on Saturday that they were motivated to earn that chance as Lincoln Memorial shot a blistering 53.7 percent (36-for-67) from the field while holding the nation's second-highest scoring attack 16 points below its average on a lowly 24-for-77 clip (31.2 percent). The Wolves lofted 36 three-point attempts and connected on only nine for a 25 percent effort from deep.
South Atlantic Conference Player of the Year Vincent Bailey (Jennings, FL) proved worthy of that title as the senior forward logged his 15th double-double of the season with 23 points on 10-of-14 shooting while adding 15 rebounds, both game-high numbers. Bailey amassed those figures in only 27 minutes of action.
Bailey was backed by four additional double-digit scores as Tim Pierce (Albany, GA) tallied a career-high 21 points on 8-of-11 shooting to go along with two rebounds and two steals. Both Curtis McMillion (Fayetteville, NC) and Chance Jones (Knoxville, TN) poured in 15 points, while McMillion added nine rebounds and four blocks to his 24-minute stat ledger. Jones contributed five boards and three assists. Lorenza Ross (Savannah, GA) posted 12 points, four rebounds and six assists in 28 minutes.
Newberry jumped out to an early 6-2 lead following a free throw by Dondray Walker at the 16:47 mark, but the Railsplitters quelled any talk of an upset with a 34-11 scoring flourish over a 12:41 stretch of the opening half. Jones punched LMU out to its largest lead of the half at 36-17 with a lay-up at the 4:06 mark. The Wolves would gain a little bit of momentum going into the second half as Demarkus Smith scored four-unanswered points to trim the Railsplitters' lead to 43-29 at the break.
The Railsplitters pounced back on the Wolves to open the second stanza as a Tim Pierce lay-up with 16:53 remaining in regulation extending the LMU advantage to 57-35. Lincoln Memorial retained a 20-point cushion over the next passage of play, but two three-pointers and four free throws helped the Wolves run off a 16-4 flurry from 15:32 to 11:57, closing the gap to 65-54.
Lincoln Memorial kept Newberry at arm's reach and withstood that charge before putting the game away with a 10-0 run over a 2:45 stretch. Lorenza Ross capped that rally with a pair of free throws at the 9:12 mark, bulging LMU's lead up to 77-56. The Wolves were never able to pull any closer than 17 points during the final nine minutes as Brunes Charles made it 80-63 with a lay-up with 6:28 left. But, LMU churned out a 13-1 scoring flourish over the next 2:09 to drive the lead to 29 points. The Railsplitters led by as many as 30 before settling for a 97-76 triumph.
The Railsplitters dominated the glass, winning the battle of the boards, 52-41, with 14 offensive rebounds that resulted in 17 second-chance points. Lincoln Memorial logged a gaudy 60-26 advantage on points in the paint while additionally mounting a 12-0 deficit over the high-octane Wolves in fast break points.
Demarkus Smith paced Newberry offensively with 19 points, while Brandon Taylor, Xavier Holmes and Gerald Evans each contributed 10 points apiece. The Railsplitters limited All-SAC First Team selection Dondray Walker to only four pints in 16 minutes of action. Brunes Charles tallied nine points off of the Newberry bench.
The Railsplitters return to the Timmons Arena floor on Sunday looking for the program's second South Atlantic Conference Championship title in four years. Lincoln Memorial and Anderson are set to clash at 1:30 p.m. in Greenville, South Carolina. The championship game will be broadcast live on the SAC Digital Network.