HICKORY, N.C. – The Mars Hill men's basketball team (6-7, 1-5 SAC) dropped a double overtime thriller to Lenoir-Rhyne (12-3, 5-2 SAC) by a score of 93-86.
Entering the first overtime frame tied at 69, the teams battled to a 10-10 draw to force a second overtime period. The Lions, down 75-71 with 2:34 remaining in the first overtime, were carried by Chris Barnette who scored eight points in a 1:30 span, including back-to-back three pointers that gave the Lions a 79-77 lead with 1:14 remaining in the frame. With 14 seconds left, Djibril Diallo converted a layup opportunity to force the second overtime period.
The Bears opened on a 5-0 run to take an 84-79 lead. They would maintain a six-point lead until the final minute of play where a Matthew Powell jump shot cut the deficit to four for Mars Hill. It would be the closest the Lions would come for the final 53 seconds of play where late fouls would send the Bears to the free throw line to win their 12th game of the season.
The teams battled back and forth for the opening four minutes that saw Mars Hill take a 9-7 lead off of a Powell three-pointer. Lenoir-Rhyne answered over the next two minutes of play with a 7-0 run that would allow the Bears to hold the lead until the 11:11 mark of the half. Reggie Wright's two free throws pulled Mars Hill back to an 18-18 tied, but shortly after, the Bears regained the lead off of a layup from RJ Gunn. Gunn, fouled on the play, converted his free throw to extend the lead to three.
With 7:14 left in the half and leading 21-20, a Davion Bradford jump shot sparked the Bears to a 13-0 run that saw Mars Hill trail 34-23 with just over three minutes to go in the half. They would pull within nine before the buzzer sounded.
Gunn led all players in the first half with 11 points, followed by Darius Simmons' nine. Powell led the Lions with eight points, followed by Nassyr Daniel's six.
Mars Hill jumped out of the half with renewed energy, scoring 11 of the first 14 points to pull within one. Though trailing for the first 8:29 of the second half, the Lions remained within two points for the duration until a three-pointer from Barnette gave Mars Hill their first lead since the first half. Over the next several minutes, the teams would trade the lead on five separate occasions until once again, they were tied 59-all with under seven minutes to play in regulation.
With 1:31 left in the second half, the Lions trailed 66-65 until a three-pointer from Powell reestablished the Mars Hill lead. Austin Gilyard, going 1-of-2 from the free throw line with 30 seconds remaining, gave the Lions a three-point lead. Ten seconds later, a clutch three-pointer from Mason Hawks would knot the game at 69 and force the overtime period.
Diallo led all players with 23 points and led the Bears with nine rebounds and six assists. Cory Thomas and Gunn scored 18 and 17 points, respectively while Simmons contributed 11 points.
Powell led the Lions with 20 points and pulled down seven rebounds. Barnette ended the contest with 17 points and a team-high nine rebounds. Gilyard went 4-of-5 from the free throw line and ended the game with 14 points.
Mars Hill returns home to face Lincoln Memorial on Wednesday, January 16th inside Stanford Arena. Tipoff is scheduled for 8 p.m.