Brevard, N.C. – Jonathan Whitson’s go-ahead jumper with 4.1 seconds left would not fall, and Brevard College lost a heartbreaker, 76-73, Wednesday night to No. 14 Catawba College. Brevard (8-6, 1-4 South Atlantic Conference) has lost their last three SAC games.
Neither team led by double-digits at any point in a tight battle that wasn’t decided until the final buzzer. Brevard scored their first basket of the game, a lay-up from Whitson (Clyde, N.C.) less than a minute in the affair, but Catawba (12-3, 4-0 SAC) responded with seven straight points, capped by an old-fashioned three-point play from Isaac Rose (Jonesville, N.C.) to make the score 7-2 with 17:46 left in the first half.
Brevard came back with seven straight of their own, finished by a three-pointer from Sam Carlisle (Raleigh, N.C.), to lead 9-7 with 15:58 left in the half. The Tornados would lead for the next 5:05, until an 8-2 Catawba streak gave the Indians a 21-20 advantage with 10:52 left in the period.
But the Tornados immediately took the lead back on a jumper from Andrew Freeman (Asheville, N.C.) and would lead for the rest of the half. Another Freeman basket with 3:10 left in the half gave Brevard the biggest lead either team would hold, 34-25. Catawba finished with seven of the half’s last nine points, including a three-point bomb from Antonio Houston (Charlotte, N.C.), to make BC lead 36-32 at the half.
Catawba opened the second half on an 8-0 run, capped by a trey from Houston, to retake a 40-36 lead. But the Tornados did not back down from the preseason favorites to win the SAC. A three-point play from Whitson brought momentum back to the Brevard camp, and after Houston was whistled for a technical foul, Nathan Whitmire (Rosman, N.C.) stroked two free throws to give Brevard a 41-40 lead with 16:38 remaining.
Neither team would lead again by more than four points for the remainder of the game, and the teams would tie the score six times before the final buzzer. Brevard took a 50-47 lead on a pair of free throws from Shane Galloway (Rosman, N.C.) with 13:22 left, but Catawba scored seven straight, capped by a Cliff Burns (Cooleemee, N.C.) basket to surge ahead, 54-50 with 11:57 to play.
The Tornados would take the lead back when Whitson boarded a Carlisle missed and put it home to make the score 61-59 with 7:28 to play, but Houston tied the game ten seconds later with a fast break jumper and gave the Catawba Indians a 64-62 lead with two free throws at the 6:49 mark after a technical foul on Brevard’s Sean Ferretti (Amherst, N.Y.).
Whitmire gave the lead back to Brevard, 65-64, with a trifecta at the 6:19 point, and Brevard would take their final lead of the game on a Terrence Johnson (Owensboro, Ky.) bucket to make the score 69-68 with 3:50 to play. But Catawba scored the next six points, capped by a pair of Donzell Williams (Salem, Va.) freebies, to make the Indian lead 74-69 with 2:35 left.
Brevard cut into lead after Darin Dellinger (Stanley, N.C.) stole the ball away from Rob Fields (Orangeburg, S.C.) to win possesion for the Tornados, and Carlisle capped the sequence with an offensive rebound and stick back to make the score 74-71 with 1:14 left.
Catawba again turned the ball over on their next possession, as Whitmire snared the ball from Williams with 50 seconds left, and Whitson cut the lead to 74-73 nine seconds later. What happened in the next sequence nearly earned Brevard the biggest win in the program’s short NCAA history.
With 16 seconds left, Whitmire again stepped into the passing lane to steal the ball and give Brevard a chance to win the game. The Tornados elected not to call timeout and ran a set to get Whitson the ball on the right block. Against a barrage of defensive contact, Whitson’s jumper would not fall, and the whistles went silent, denying the junior forward a chance to take the lead at the free throw line.
Catawba’s Dominick Reid (Charlotte, N.C.) rebounded the miss and knocked down two free throws with 1.3 seconds left to make the score 76-73. After a timeout, Brevard coach Michael Jones drew up a play that got the ball in Galloway’s hands, but the junior’s half-court heave at the buzzer was off-target to deny Brevard a chance at overtime.
“Our guys left it all out on the court tonight, and I am very pleased with the way we defended,” said Jones after the game. “In the end, we had a shot to win the game and it wouldn’t fall.”
Whitson led all scorers with 25 points, while Carlisle added ten for Brevard. Houston led the Catawba Indians with 16 points, while Fields scored 15, Burns 14 and Donald Rutherford (Morganton, N.C.) pumped in ten points and ten rebounds.
Brevard returns to the court Saturday for a 4 p.m. game with Wingate. Catawba plays at Mars Hill Saturday, also at 4 p.m.