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The Barton College men’s basketball team got a huge Conference Carolinas win over Erskine Saturday, 79-75, behind sophomore Jake Kakar’s go ahead 3-pointer with 34.4 seconds left.
The basket was redemption for Kakar, who was just 5-for-14 from the field before the shot.
“It was the biggest shot of my career so far,” said Kakar, who canned five of Barton’s dozen 3-pointers. “I shot it with confidence. My teammates believed in me, kept giving me the ball, and I just tried to do whatever I could to help the team win.”
The victory was timely for the Bulldogs, who had lost three of their previous four games after starting the season 6-0. Barton moved to 8-3 and evened its conference mark at 2-2 while the Flying Fleet fell to 3-5 and 0-2 in league action.
Earlier in the second half, Kakar had turned the ball over on the lob to the rim on a fast break that could have given Barton a 72-68 lead. Kakar was immediately pulled by head coach Ron Lievense with 5:41 on the clock.
A putback by Erskine’s Austin Venable put the Fleet up 74-72 with 2:02 left. Lievense sent Kakar to the scorers table after he called a 30-second timeout.
“Jake’s a tremendous basketball player, he’s just a young player,” Lievense said. “I have a lot of faith in him, just like I do all of our players and I wouldn’t have put him in the game if I didn’t believe in him. I think it was important to get him back in the game after a tough play and let him redeem himself.”
Kakar missed a 3-point attempt right away but two possessions later, he didn’t miss. Then on Erskine’s ensuing possession, he came up with the rebound on Jordan Watson’s missed layup.
Zach Grant hit all four of his free-throw attempts in the final eight seconds to seal the victory.
Kakar led a Bulldogs bench that outscored Erskine’s, 34-4, with a team-high 17 points. Jeff Gordon also chipped in 13 points off the bench, and Lievense applauded the energy of Isaiah Reddish who finished with four points and a team-high 10 rebounds.
Grant nearly had a double-double with 10 points and nine rebounds. Bobby Stenborg, though, nearly had a triple-double with 16 points, seven rebounds, six assists and two steals. The Garner product was all-conference last year and is the Bulldogs’ top scorer at 16.3 points per game.
“Bobby is a young man we count on a lot. We need Bobby to play well,” Lievense said.
Tyler Brevard was 11 of 16 from the floor, including 4 of 6 from 3-point range, to pace the Fleet with a game-high 30 points.
Barton dropped out of the NABC Division II poll after being ranked all season.
Lievense said the team is working out its issues, and the win on Saturday was important for that. The Bulldogs pulled down 50 rebounds to Erskine’s 37.
“The reason we won seven games coming into this game is we defended with a passion, and the reason we lost two in a row is because we haven’t been defending with a passion,” Lievense said. “If we don’t defend with a passion and outrebound people, we’re not going to beat a lot of people. We’re trying to work ourselves out of a rough patch, and every game because we started so well is going to be a war because we’re getting everybody’s best shot, and our guys have to be aware of that.”
The Bulldogs wrap up their eight-game homestand with nonconference games Monday against Coker and Wednesday against Tusculum at Wilson Gym.