SALISBURY, N.C. — Luquon Choice scored a game-high 25 points, while Deshawn Patterson poured in a career-high 20 points as the 11th-ranked Railsplitters (24-4, 19-3 SAC) clinched a share of their fifth consecutive South Atlantic Conference regular-season title with a 92-81 win over Catawba (18-10, 12-10 SAC) on Saturday.
Lincoln Memorial is now 82-6 in conference play over the past four seasons combined.
The Railsplitters, who wrap up the regular-season slate with wins in 14 consecutive games, finished tied with Queens atop the league standings, but will serve as the No. 1 seed for next week’s SAC Championship by virtue of their 2-0 record against Wingate.
Lincoln Memorial will host eight-seeded Tusculum at 8 p.m. at Tex Turner Arena on Wednesday night in quarterfinal-round action.
“Winning the league championship is a huge accomplishment,” said LMU head coach Josh Schertz, who has guided the Railsplitters to six of the last seven SAC titles. “It’s a lot of hard work going all the way back to the offseason program and a lot of tough games. We’ve won a lot of games on the road, which is always hard to do. Tonight was another one.
“We still have more we can accomplish. Our goals can now be reset. That was the first one; to win the league. It’s something to be proud of and we accomplished it. But it’s time to reset and accomplish more this year.”
Lincoln Memorial had to slog through a forgettable night offensively to get past the Indians, who crushed one of the hottest teams in the Southeast Region, Wingate, by 32 points on Wednesday night.
The Railsplitters shot just 42.3 percent from the field, missed nine free throws and went 9-for-22 from three, but held Catawba to 43 percent shooting and a 4-for-14 clip from three.
The Railsplitters also battled foul trouble, as four players finished with four fouls in the contest.
Choice had 25 points on 9-for-15 shooting to go along with four rebounds and an assist, while Patterson scored 20 points on 6-of-12 shooting in 23 minutes off the bench, surpassing his previous career-high mark of 19.
Chris Perry had his eighth double-double of the season with 16 points and 13 rebounds, but finished an uncharacteristic 5-for-16 from the field. Emanuel Terry had 11 points and 10 rebounds in 18 minutes off the bench, while Trevon Shaw pitched in 10 points with a pair of threes.
Three players combined for 66 of Catawba’s 81 points. Jameel Taylor had a team-high 24 points on 9-for-20 shooting to go with a team-best seven rebounds.
Jerrin Morrison went 10-for-15 from the floor to score 23 points, while Rakeen Brown scored 19 points, four shy of matching his season-high mark. No other Catawba player had more than five points.
The Indians were all over the Railsplitters early in the first half, as Taylor scored four straight points to put the home team ahead 18-9 with 13 minutes left in the frame. Lincoln Memorial closed the gap to six points at 21-15 on a bucket by Shaw, but Taylor scored the next six points for Catawba to extend its lead to 27-16.
It marked the third consecutive Saturday game in which the Railsplitters have trailed by at least 10 points and, like the two preceding it, Lincoln Memorial made another big run to shift the momentum.
Facing a 29-19 deficit following Taylor’s jumper at the 8:47 mark, Lincoln Memorial went on a 28-4 run to author a 24-point turnover. The Railsplitters tied the game at 33-33 on a bucket by Choice with 4:51 left.
Nineteen seconds later, Choice hit a 3-pointer that gave Lincoln Memorial a lead that it wouldn’t relinquish. Terry concluded the run with two free throws at the 1:48 mark, which put the Railsplitters ahead 47-33 with 9:53 to go.
Catawba whittled the lead down before the half ended and sent the Railsplitters into the break with a 49-40 lead.
The Indians cut the Railsplitters’ lead to as little as six points early in the second half on a free throw by Troy Warren, but a dunk from Terry and a layup by Shaw pushed it back to 58-45 with 14 minutes to play.
Lincoln Memorial would not lead by less than 10 points again until an old-fashioned three-point play by Taylor trimmed it to 87-78 with only 45 seconds remaining. Catawba couldn’t get any closer than eight points as the Railsplitters closed it out at the free-throw line.
The Railsplitters outrebounded the Indians 47-37 and limited the SAC’s best offensive rebounding team to just 10 second-chance opportunities. Lincoln Memorial, for its part, grabbed 16 offensive boards. The Railsplitters also limited the Indians to just 39 percent shooting in the second half.
Lincoln Memorial has now won five straight SAC regular-season championships and six of the last seven overall. Prior to the Railsplitters’ run of dominance, no team had ever won more than three consecutive SAC titles.
The Railsplitters begin postseason play against a familiar foe, hosting the eight-seeded Tusculum Pioneers for the quarterfinals of the SAC Championship at 8 p.m. on Wednesday.
It will be LMU’s fourth quarterfinal-round game against Tusculum in the past six seasons. The Railsplitters swept the regular-season series from Tusculum, who suffered an 80-54 loss to Queens on Saturday.