Bulldogs denied by Bobcats in CC semis

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BANNER ELK — Five players scoring in double figures was not enough to keep the Barton College men’s basketball season alive.

A sensational performance from 6-foot-4 junior Bobby Stenborg was not anough.

Scoring 27 points from 3-point range and shooting for 51-percent accuracy from the field didn’t get it done.

No. 3-seeded Barton was dealt a 110-95 loss by No. 2 Lees-McRae, the host for the semifinals and finale, in the NCAA Division II Conference Carolinas tournament semifinals Saturday afternoon.

The Bulldogs finished with a 17-13 record, while Lees-McRae clipped No. 8 seed Belmont Abbey 75-72 on Sunday afternoon for the Bobcats’ first Conference Carolinas title. Belmont Abbey ousted No. 5 Limestone (South Carolina) College 63-56 in Saturday’s first semifinal.

Barton allowed a season-high 110 points for the second time this season. The teams split regular-season encounters with the Bobcats pouring in 100-plus points in both contests.

Turnovers crippled Barton. The Bobcats notched 13 steals and the Bulldogs committed 19 turnovers. The miscues led to 23 points. Barton managed just three steals and Lees-McRae committed just 10 turnovers — resulting in 10 Barton points.

The Bulldogs were outscored 33-27 from 3-point range. Lees-McRae drained 27 of 34 free throws as compared to 22 of 33 for Barton. The Bobcats also shot for 51-percent accuracy and claimed a 41-28 rebounding edge.

However, Stenborg, proclaimed first-team all-conference earlier in the day, starred for Barton with 22 points and three assists. He was accurate on 10 of 11 shots from the field, including his only attempt from 3-point range.

Isaiah Buck-Lowman, a 6-6 sophomore and Barton’s other all-league selection, and sophomore Michael Boykin each bucketed 16 points. Buck-Lowman claimed six rebounds. Junior Zach Grant, who knocked down 3-of-5 3-point attempts and all four of his free throws, and junior Matt Woods each canned 15 points. Blake Burdack, a 6-8 freshman, managed nine points and eight rebounds.

But Lees-McRae countered with six players in double-figures scoring. Jason Saintizaire poured in 21 points, while Quay Kimble and Jordan Turner each bucketed 20. Lepreece Lynch added 15 points, Kamil Williams 11 and Josh Gaither 10.

The Bulldogs trailed 50-47 at intermission, but could not match Lees-McRae’s 60-point explosion the final 20 minutes.

Trailing 28-25 with slightly over 11 minutes left in the first half, Barton responded with a 11-1 spree to seize its biggest lead of 36-29. However, the Bobcats responded with a 10-2 run to go ahead 39-38 with 5:18 showing.

Buck-Lowman’s three-point play produced a 50-50 tie to open the second-half scoring. But the Bulldogs committed turnovers four of their next five possessions. The Bobcats capitalized with a 9-0 tear over the next 2 1/2 minutes.