Bulldogs top Bobcats to secure top-4 seed

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BANNER ELK — The Barton College men’s basketball team will play at home in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Division II Conference Carolinas tournament in early March.

The Bulldogs of head coach Ron Lievense clinched the berth with a top-4 finish in the regular season with a 97-78 conquest of host Lees-McRae College on Saturday.

With its fifth consecutive win, Barton remained in third place in the conference at 12-4 with two games remaining. The Bulldogs stand a half-game out of third place, but cannot claim the No. 1 tournament seed. Barton could conceivably deadlock Emmanuel (Georgia) College for first place, but Emmanuel possesses the tie-breaker with a pair of regular-season wins against the Bulldogs.

Barton, 19-7 overall, travels to Bristol, Tennessee, next Saturday to oppose King University and ends the regular season the following Tuesday at Limestone (South Carolina) College.

The Bulldogs again rode torrid shooting against the Bobcats. Barton knocked down 11 3-pointers en route to swishing 35-of-65 shots from the floor for 54-percent accuracy. The Bulldogs handed out 25 assists and registered a 38-31 rebounding edge.

Barton raced to a 49-31 halftime lead. The Bulldogs forged their largest lead of 59-37  with just under 16 minutes remaining, and the Bobcats could draw no closer than 12 points.

Barton’s Bobby Stenborg, a 6-foot-4 senior, fired in a game-high 22 points, hitting 9-of-12 shots from the floor. Isaiah Reddish, a 6-5 sophomore, dropped in 18 points. Sophomore Jake Kakar and senior Matt Woods each connected on a trio of 3-point attempts en route to 15 points each.

Blake Burdack, a 6-8 sophomore, paced Barton with eight rebounds and Woods handed out seven assists.

The third consecutive loss and second this season to Barton left Lees-McRae at 6-10 in the league and at 10-16 against all foes. The Bobcats, accurate on 22-of-25 free throws, were led by Jerick Haynes with 18 points in a reserve role.