MOUNT OLIVE, N.C. – On three different occasions the Mount Olive Trojans and the King Tornado exchanged scoring runs that overcame deficits of eight points or greater to take Tuesday night's game to the wire before a winner was decided. Behind six Tornado players scoring in double digits and poor free throw shooting by the Trojans, King rallied late to win its fifth straight game, 73-66, to stay undefeated. King is now 5-0 overall and 2-0 in conference play out of the gate.
Free throw shooting down the stretch made the difference in the ball game as King was a perfect 11-for-11 in the final 4:08 while Mount Olive missed on eight of their last nine attempts. Holding on a to a one point lead in the final five minutes, all of King's final 11 points were scored from the free throw line to hold on to a 73-66 road win over the Trojans.
After Mount Olive's Darrell Patterson hit a three pointer with 4:50 left to cut the King lead to 62-61, King began its run from the charity stripe when Logan Lyle nailed three in a row after being fouled on a three-point attempt. Patterson failed to hit either of his free throw attempts while his team sat in the double bonus and then fouled senior Eddie Piccinini, putting him at the line for two free throw attempts. After hitting both, the Tornado led by six under the three-minute mark.
Freshman Malcolm St. Louis (Lebanon, Tenn.) made a big defensive stand by blocking Jordan McCain's layup attempt to keep the Trojans scoreless and maintaining their 67-60 lead. Kendall Hargrove broke Mount Olive's scoring drought, hitting their only free throw shot in the last five minutes of the game and trimming the lead to six.
As time dwindled and approaching 60 seconds left in the game, Ewon Wright put up a three ball in an attempt to make for a two point game. His shot was off the mark but teammate Jordan McCain was there for the first of four consecutive offensive rebounds in the series. McCain and Dory Hines missed four consecutive put back attempts in a flurry of action underneath the King basket before Eddie Piccinini committed a foul chasing after the loose ball. Hines missed both free throw attempts. On the second miss Mount Olive's Mahamed Ibrahim went in for a tip in but was waived off as he was called for a foul on his entry into the lane. With two free throw makes on the other end by freshman Drew Standifer, King extended their lead to 69-62.
Mount Olive quickly came back down the floor where Ibrahim hit on a two-point jumper then forced Piccinini to turn the ball over with 23 seconds left before calling a timeout. The Trojans set up their play and Deshaune Green streaked into the paint for a quick lay in and a chance for a three-point play, making it a three point game, 69-66, with 21 seconds to go. McCain failed to convert the ensuing free throw before King's continued success at the free throw line led them to a 73-66 victory.
King finished the game going 29-for-31 (.935) from the free throw line in its best display from the free throw line this season. Six players scored 10 or more points in the win, including all five starters. Eddie Piccinini (Orlando, Fla.) led the team with 15 points behind an 11-for-12 performance from the charity stripe. He also led the team with five assists.
For the first time this season, King lost the turnover battle after Mount Olive forced 18 turnovers that turned into 25 Trojan points. Mount Olive also outrebounded the Tornado, 39-31. King's largest lead of the game was eight points, achieved with 14:56 to go in the second half.
Malcolm St. Louis went a perfect 4-for-4 from the field and hit both of his free throws to account for 10 points. It was his second straight double-digit scoring effort after tallying a career-high 13 points against Mars Hill in last week's 103-79 win over the Lions. It also marks the second time the freshman went 4-for-4 from the field in a game after doing so in his debut against Virginia Union (Nov. 10).
Senior Jason Seymore (Powell, Tenn.) and freshman Drew Standifer (Knoxville, Tenn.) each scored 10 or more points and registered six rebounds apiece. Seymore hit four from the floor for 10 points while adding a pair of assists while Standifer hit three shots from the field while going 7-of-8 from the free throw line. Logan Lyle (Unicoi, Tenn.) was the final player to reach double digits in scoring while sharing the team lead in blocks (2) with St. Louis.
Four Mount Olive players hit double digit scoring, led by Jordan McCain's 18 points. Dory Hines registered a double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds. He was two assists shy from recording Mount Olive's first ever triple-double in program history.
King (5-0, 2-0 Conference Carolinas) remains undefeated in both overall and conference play with the win and will defend that mark this Saturday, Dec. 1, when they host Queens (N.C.) in the second leg of a basketball doubleheader scheduled in the Student Center Complex. Tipoff for the men's game is set for 7:30 p.m.