AIKEN, S.C. —The 13th-ranked Railsplitterscut a 14-point second-half deficit down to two, but Barton College closed the game with a 21-8 run over the final 9:40 to outst Lincoln Memorial from NCAA Division II Southeast Regional, 76-61, on Sunday.
It’s the second straight season Lincoln Memorial University (25-6) saw their season come to a close in the semifinals of the Southeast Regional, while Barton (23-7) advances to the Southeast Regional Final where they set to face top seed USC-Aiken on Tuesday night.
The Railsplitters and Bulldogs played a hotly contested first half that included five ties and nine lead changes over the first 13 minutes of action. The largest lead for either team over that span was a 16-13 advantage for Lincoln Memorial on a layup by Chance Jones at the 11:52 mark, while Barton grabbed a 7-4 lead on a offensive rebound and a dunk by Jon Hart at the 17:18 mark.
Vincent Bailey brought the game to its final tie of the first half with a layup at the 6:39 mark to square the game at 21-21. But that would be LMU’s final field goal of the half and the Bulldogs used two three-pointers by Chris Flemmings and another by Tristan Thomas during an 11-o spurt to take a 32-21 lead by the 4:37 mark.
Jones went six-for-six effort the charity stripe over the last four minutes of the half, but the Bulldogs got two free throws apiece by Flemmings and Gerald Boston to go into the break holding a 38-27 lead.
The Railplsitters used a 9-0 run of their own early in the second half to get back in the game as Cam Carden drained a 3-pointer at the 15:32 mark to cut the deficit to 47-43.
Keith Manley followed Carden’s three with a pair of free throws, but Jones answered for the LMU on the other end with a layup to keep the score at only a four-point advantage in favor of the Bulldogs with 14:29 to play.
Barton briefly extended their lead out to eight at 53-45 following four-unanswered points by Boston, but the Railsplitters fought back, using a 8-2 run fueled by four points from Dustin Craig and capped with a jumper by Tim Pierce at the 9:40 mark to make it a two-point game.
Despite cutting to within two, the Railsplitters would go dormant on the offensive end while the Bulldogs would reassert themselves offensively for the remainder. The Bulldogs broke away from the Railsplitters with a 9-2 run concluded with a pair of jumpers by Boston to extend their lead back to 64-55 at the 6:25 mark. The Railsplitters briefly countered with a jump shot by Vincent Bailey and two free throws by Lorenza Ross, however, Barton scored six-unanswered points to push out to a double-digit lead which the Railsplitters were unable to overcome.
The loss by Lincoln Memorial spoiled a stellar performance by junior guard Chance Jones (Knoxville, Tenn.), as he notched 18 points with 10 coming in the second half. Jones nailed four of his eight shots from the field and went a perfect nine-for-nine from the free throw line, battling through foul trouble to turn in a gutsy outing for the Railsplitters. The only other Railsplitter in double figures was Vincent Bailey (Jennings, Fla.), as the junior forward posted 12 points in 28 minutes of action.
Senior Dustin Craig (Knoxville, Tenn.) put in nine points and matched a team-high with eight rebounds off the bench in his final game with the Railsplitters. Also playing in his final game, Jake Troyli (Largo, Fla.) raked in eight rebounds but struggled offensively with only two points. Lorenza Ross (Savannah, Ga.) chipped in with seven points.
Carden (Clearwater, Fla.) played all 40 minutes for the Railsplitters, contributing five points, three assists and a rebound in the final game of his brilliant career at Lincoln Memorial.
Gerald Boston was the story of the contest for Barton, as he compiled a game-high 30 points, marked by a 10-for-10 effort from the free-throw line. Boston added a game-high seven assists and three boards in 37 minutes of work.
Keith Manley added 12 points on five-of-11 shooting, while Chris Flemmings sparked the Bulldogs off the bench with 13 points on a three-for-seven mark from deep.
The 2012-13 season saw Lincoln Memorial record their fourth-consecutive 20-win season, as they have amassed a 98-24 mark over that span. Four-year seniors Wally Jones, Carden and Craig will leave LMU as the all-time winningest players in the history of the program. The Railsplitters will begin the 2013-14 season in the midst of a South Atlantic Conference record streak of 42-consecutive weeks ranked inside the NABC/Division II national poll.