Brevard, N.C. – Vytautus Valiulis poured in a season-high 18 points and Newberry College held off a furious second half rally to outlast Brevard, 68-64, Wednesday night at Boshamer Gymnasium. The win avenges Newberry’s 74-68 loss to Brevard last season at Boshamer, on February 27, 2008.
Brevard was shorthanded throughout the game, as Andrew Freeman (Asheville, N.C.) sat out with a sprained ankle and both Nathan Whitmire (Rosman, N.C.) and Terrence Johnson (Owensboro, Ky.) left early in the first half with thumb and knee injuries respectively. Still, the Tornados showed resolve despite trailing by as many as 18 points, 44-26, with 2:03 left in the first half, and gradually cut the deficit down in the second half to make the game tight in the end.
Jonathan Whitson (Clyde, N.C.) led the Tornado effort with 17 points and a career-high 15 rebounds, while Sam Carlisle (Raleigh, N.C.) added 14 points and 13 boards of his own. The double-doubles are the tenth of the season for Whitson and the fourth of the year from Carlisle. Brevard outrebounded the scarlet and gray, 43-27. Cody Siniard (Brevard, N.C.) scored a season-high 12 points, knocking down three of four outside shots.
Valiulis stroked four of eight three-pointers en route to his 18 points for Newberry (15-4, 5-3 SAC). Clemente Martin (Freeport, Bahamas) added 17 points and Grant Domsic (Winter Garden, Fla.) chipped in 11.
The Tornados (10-8, 2-6 South Atlantic Conference) scored the first four points of the game on baskets from Darin Dellinger (Stanley, N.C.) and Carlisle to take a 4-0 lead, but Newberry stormed ahead with a 9-0 run, including seven points from Valiulis (Vilnius, Lithuania) to take a 9-4 lead with 16:00 left in the first half.
Newberry would lead for the 5:24 until a short jumper from Whitson tied the game at 21 apiece. The scarlet and gray came back with a 14-4 run, including a pair of treys from Domsic, to take their first double-digit lead, 35-25, at the 5:43 mark. Martin capped the streak with a trifecta of his own.
Coach Jeremy Luther’s team would then reel off nine of the game’s next ten points, capped by five straight points from Domsic, to take their largest advantage of the game 2:03 before intermission. Five straight from the Tornados, including a three-pointer from Christian Matus (Miami, Fla.) forty-eight seconds before the break, made the score 44-31 twenty minutes into the game.
Brevard scored the first six points of the second half to cut the Newberry lead to 44-37, but the scarlet and gray came back with nine straight of their own, capped by two free throws by Matt Alexander (Norcross, Ga.), to build the lead back to 53-37 with 17:02 to play.
Despite missing three perimeter players, Brevard refused to quit. The Tornados charged back with a 12-4 spurt, finished by a lay-up from Whitson, to cut the gap back to single digits at 57-49 with 11:33 to play
A three-pointer from Siniard made the score 66-60 in favor of Newberry with 6:35 to play, and the Tornados appeared primed to surge ahead. But the sharpshooter’s basket was the final field goal of the game from either squad. The final six and a half minutes of the game was a defensive battle that saw Brevard score just four points and Newberry two.
Down 67-63, Matus was fouled while shooting a three-pointer, but hit just one of three freebies. After Alexander hit one of two free throws to make the score 68-64, Brevard got the ball back but could not score again, falling by four points.
Despite the loss, Brevard coach Michael Jones was proud of the effort his team showed. “I could not be prouder of the way my team played tonight,” Jones said in his postgame comments. “Despite facing a short bench and a tough opponent, our guys worked so hard. It’s disappointing to not come away with the win, but still, we showed a ton of heart tonight.”
Brevard returns to the court Saturday with a 4 p.m. match-up with Mars Hill. The Tornados beat the Lions, 90-80, January 3 at Boshamer. Newberry finishes January with an 8 p.m. game at Carson-Newman, also on Saturday.