Brevard, N.C. – Led by 28 points and 12 rebounds from Jonathan Whitson, Brevard College scored their first official South Atlantic Conference victory in program history, a 90-80 win over Mars Hill, Saturday evening at Boshamer Gymnasium. The Tornados move to 6-3 (1-1 SAC) with the win.
After the teams traded baskets for much of the first half, with neither team leading by more than three points, the Tornados launched the game’s first run on an Andrew Freeman (Asheville, N.C.) three-pointer at the 10:44 mark to give Brevard a 21-16 lead. The basket sparked a 17-7 run that ended with a Cody Siniard (Brevard, N.C.) basket with 5:17 left in the half to stretch Brevard’s lead to a dozen, 35-23.
Whitson (Clyde, N.C.) hit six of Brevard’s final eight field goals in the final five minutes of the half to give Brevard a 51-35 intermission lead. The junior forward finished the opening half with 21 points.
Brevard stretched the lead to 53-35 on a Darin Dellinger (Stanley, N.C.) lay-up 1:50 into the half and again led by 18 on a basket from Sam Carlisle (Raleigh, N.C.) to make the game 57-39 with 17:06 to play.
But the veteran Lions did not roll over for the Tornados. Mars Hill responded to their biggest gap with a 10-0 run of their own, finished off by an Akeene Coakley (Mt. Pleasant, S.C.) jumper with 14:11 to play. After Brevard pushed the lead back to a dozen on a Carlisle basket at the half’s midway point, the Lions used a full-court press to take off on a 7-0 run, capped by a Stoney Polite (Morganton, N.C.) fast break score to make the game 65-60 Tornados with 8:38 to play.
The Tornados scored the game’s next four points, highlighted by an old-fashioned three-point play from Freeman to move the score to 69-60 with 7:07 to play, but Mars Hill scored seven of the game’s next nine points to cut the lead to 71-67 with 4:50 on the clock after P.J. Gore’s (North Myrtle Beach, S.C.) lay-in.
The game turned in Brevard’s favor for good on an intentional foul against Mars Hill’s Danny Sanders (Shelby, N.C.) on the game’s very next possession. With Brevard’s Joseph Chilton (Brasstown, N.C.) streaking to the basket for an uncontested dunk, Sanders pulled Whitson down from behind, and the Tornados received two free throws and possession. Freeman knocked down the two technical shots and Nathan Whitmire (Rosman, N.C.) was fouled and hit two freebies of his own to pump Brevard’s lead to 75-67 with 4:10 to play.
Brevard never again led by less than seven, as Whitmire, Dellinger, Chilton, Whitson and Shane Galloway (Rosman, N.C.) combined to hit 13 of Brevard’s final 18 free throws in the game’s waning stages, to win 90-80.
“I am so proud of the way our guys competed today,” Brevard coach Michael Jones said in his postgame interview. “With the exception of one stretch in the second half, our guys were as focused as they have been all season. This is a game we would have lost last year, but our maturity and toughness really showed.”
“My teammates and I could not have played better,” Whitson said after his epic performance. “Even when we lost most of our lead, we stayed tough and believed in each other.”
Brevard’s 90-point performance was their highest of the season. The Tornados once again held their opponents under 40% from the floor, as the Lions hit 35.7% of their field goals. No Brevard opponent has shot better than 40% this season.
Dellinger supplemented Whitson’s 28 points with a dozen of his own. Whitmire scored a season-high 11 and Freeman finished with ten. Siniard ran Brevard’s offense beautifully, finishing with eight points and a season-best seven assists. Mars Hill was led by Sanders, who scored 21 points.
The Tornados will play again on Monday, as Montreat comes to Boshamer for an 8 p.m. tip. Mars Hill will host Newberry Wednesday at 8 p.m.