The Chattanooga Mocs grabbed a huge Southern Conference road win topping Western Carolina in 83-81 overtime thriller. Yes, this one was so hotly-contested it took an extra five minutes to decide.
Martynas Bareika (Kedainiai, Lithuania) was the hero in regulation. He came off a screen and took a feed from Ronrico White (Knoxville, Tenn.) draining a game-tying three-pointer with eight seconds left.
Casey Jones (New Orleans, La.) matched him on the defensive end. Trey Sumler drove into the lane but his final shot was blocked by Jones to treat the Catamount fans to free basketball.
“Huge shot by Marty to send it to overtime,” Head Coach Will Wade stated. “It was the same play we ran earlier. We had the play wide open out of a time out, and the guy called a hand-check and Marty was going to be wide open. So we put that in our back pocket and knew we could use it again later on in crunch time.”
After both teams traded scored early, Brandon Boggs made it a four-point game with a three-pointer from the left wing to give Western the 78-74 advantage with 1:51 to play. It was still four points when White pulled the trigger from 23 feet to cut the lead to one, 81-80, with 23.1 ticks to go.
“Ronrico hit a huge three,” Wade added. “That three was huge. He hit it off a broken play. We were trying to go to the rim and they did a nice job covering Marty up on the switch. We were sliding him to the corner and he hit a shot.
“Big play by Rico.”
Lance Stokes (Orlando, Fla) and Gee McGhee (Baton Rouge, La.) stepped up on the Catamounts in-bounds play. The duo tied up Tom Tanklewicz for the jump ball with the possession arrow pointing the Mocs way. Jones took the ball at the top of the key and drove hard to the basket. He put his squad up for good 82-80 with 13 seconds remaining.
Western pushed the ball down the floor quickly, but James Sinclair’s shot was off. White grabbed the rebound and was fouled with 4.2 left. He made one of two for the 83-81 lead. Tanklewicz’s contested three missed the mark securing the Chattanooga win.
“We have done a pretty good job coming from behind,” Wade said. “I just wish we didn’t have to come-from-behind. That’s the mark of a good team, just finding ways to win.
“Now we have that confidence back, we’ve got that edge back and that’s what we need.”
Jones had 19 points, seven rebounds and three blocks for the Mocs. Z. Mason (Nashville, Tenn.) added 16 points and seven rebounds, while McGhee tallied 15 points and six boards. White came off the bench to chip
Boggs led all scorers with 22 points including four-for-six from 3pt range. Sinclair added 19 points and nine boards, Sumler posted 15 points with seven assists.
Both teams led by as many as nine points tonight; the Mocs in the first half, the Catamounts in the second. Boggs’ trey at 14:21 gave Western a 54-45 advantage. Chattanooga chipped away at the lead.
White nailed a triple at 11:23 to slice the lead to two, 57-55. Mason knotted the score at 60-all four minutes later. White hit three free throws after McGhee’s steal for the 63-60 lead at 5:38. That completed an 11-3 run for the Mocs.
The home team fought back. Kenneth Hall’s dunk with 54 seconds to go gave Western a 68-67 advantage. Two Boggs free throw with 21 seconds remaining set up Bareika’s huge shot.
“It was just a regular shot,” Bareika said. “Didn’t even think about it sending us to overtime. It was just one more three. I knew it was going in. I had a guard right on me, but it didn’t matter, I knew it was going in.”
The Mocs are now 17-13, 11-4 in the SoCon currently in line for the No. 2 seed in the upcoming tournament. They’re tied with Elon and Wofford for second-place and hold the tiebreaker advantage. WCU falls to 16-14, 10-5 in league play.
Chattanooga returns home Saturday for the regular season finale. It welcomes Appalachian State to McKenzie Arena for a 7 p.m., tip on Senior Night honoring Mason.
Listen to the game live on ESPN 105.1 FM the Zone in the Scenic City, or go to the men’s basketball schedule page on GoMocs.com for links to video (PPV), audio (free) and live stats. You can follow @GoMocsMBB on twitter for live updates as well.