Lander pulls away from Young Harris, 89-74

David Pruett
David Pruett

GREENWOOD – Dwight Tolbert scored a season-high 34 points and Corey Wright recorded a double-double as the Lander Bearcats snapped Young Harris College's 12-game winning streak 89-74 in a non-conference game Monday night at Horne Arena.

Lander avenged an overtime loss suffered at Young Harris Nov. 22. The Bearcats, who shot 67 percent from the floor in the second half, improved their home record to 10-0 and are 12-4 overall.

Young Harris, whose last loss was Nov. 18 at Reinhardt College, fell to 12-4. The Mountain Lions have been accepted into the Peach Belt Conference and will be a Lander league rival in the coming years.

Tolbert made 14 of 21 shots from the floor including three of six 3-pointers, exceeding the 30-point mark for the fourth time this season. The reigning Peach Belt Player of the Week also had nine rebounds.

David Pruett added 19 points, including 17 in the second half, and made six of six free throws. Pruett is 17-for-17 from the line in the last two games.

Wright had 16 points and 11 assists while Jermel Kennedy just missed a double-double of his own with eight points and a game-high 10 rebounds.

Frank Adams led Young Harris with 22 points, Malcolm Jackson had 21 points and a team-high nine rebounds, and Vince Martin and Colin Cook added 10 points apiece. Martin had scored 31 points in the previous meeting.

Cook and Adams had eight rebounds apiece and Martin led the Mountain Lions with five assists.

Lander had a strong shooting effort, making 35 of 65 shots from the floor (54 percent) including 22 of 33 in the second half. The Bearcats hit 13 of 18 free throws (72 percent) and six of 16 from 3-point range (38 percent).

Young Harris made 28 of 78 shots (36 percent), nine of 12 free throws (75 percent) and nine of 31 from behind the arc (29 percent). The Mountain Lions had a 46-38 edge on the boards.

After Steve Viterbo's 3 gave the Mountain Lions a 7-2 lead, Lander bounced back to tie it at 9 on Tolbert's long 3 and take an 11-9 lead at the 14:25 mark on Wright's quick drive to the basket for a layup.

After a Young Harris free throw, Pruett hit a 3, and Dennis Rumph made consecutive baskets on a put-back and a long jumper just inside the arc to make it 17-10 with 11:13 to go.

After the Mountain Lions closed within 21-19 on Cook's basket with 7:13 left, nine scoreless possessions followed between the two teams. Finally, Young Harris converted when Cook scored to tie it at 21 with 4:20 to go.

Bryson Robertson's fast-break layup gave the Mountain Lions the lead and Andrew Reid's offensive rebound basket put the visitors up 25-21 at the 3:37 mark.

After Lander missed a pair of free throws, Adams nailed a 3 to push Young Harris's lead to 28-21, the largest for either team in the first half.

The Bearcats ended their five-plus minute scoring drought on Wright's basket in the paint, pulling Lander within 28-23 with 2:09 left. The Bearcats had gone nine consecutive possessions without scoring, with eight missed shots, two missed free throws, and one turnover.

But Lander came alive over the last two minutes of the first half. Wright made four of four free throws, Darion Canty scored a fast-break layup off Darius Carrier's steal, and the Bearcats took a 31-30 lead when Carrier grabbed an errant alley-oop attempt and scored with 21 seconds to go. Lander closed the first half on a 10-2 run.

The Bearcats picked up where they left off in the first two minutes of the second half, building their 31-30 halftime lead to 37-30 on Tolbert's basket in the paint, Wright's steal and layup, and Canty's jumper near the free throw line.

Young Harris pulled within a possession when Adams and Martin scored inside on consecutive trips, and the Mountain Lions answered a pair of Lander baskets with Jackson's 3 from the right corner to close within 41-37 with 15:42 to go.

Tolbert's 3 and Pruett's two free throws extended Lander's lead to its largest of the game at 46-37 with 14:49 left. But Young Harris exploded for 10 unanswered points, including 3s by Jackson and Adams, and took a 47-46 lead on two free throws by Jackson at the 13-minute mark.

The Bearcats got those 10 points right back with a 12-2 run, regaining their nine-point lead at 58-49 at the halfway point of the second half on Tolbert's dunk and three-point play on consecutive possessions, Pruett's 3, Wright's layup off a Pruett steal, and Wright's acrobatic shot under the basket without use of the backboard.

Two more Pruett treys sandwiched around Kennedy's hook shot expanded Lander's lead to its largest of the game at 13 points, 66-53, with seven minutes to go.

Jackson's 3 pulled Young Harris within 66-56 with 5:33 left. But Tolbert gave the Bearcats a 14-point lead, 74-60, with an inside basket at the 4:28 mark and they were up 14 again when Tolbert laid one in off a long pass from Kennedy to make it 78-64 with 3:18 to go.

Cook's dunk brought the Mountain Lions back within 10 at 78-68 at the 2:38 mark.

But Lander took more than 30 seconds off the clock before Tolbert swished a 3 in front of the Lander bench to make it 81-68. Tolbert saved his best highlight for the next possession when he drove the baseline and soared over a defender for a dunk.