MARS HILL, N.C. – The Mars Hill men's basketball team (6-5, 1-3 SAC) dropped a hard fought battle versus Wingate (9-5, 5-1 SAC) by a score of 83-76 Saturday evening inside Stanford Arena.
In a game that saw 12 ties and 10 lead changes, the Bulldogs prevailed to hand Mars Hill their first defeat at home in this season's campaign.
During the first half, no team had an advantage of more than four points at any given time. Wingate's largest lead of the half came at the 2:37 mark, when they were up 8-4 over Mars Hill. Five straight points from Ja'Shawn Brooks provided Mars Hill their first lead of the contest just over a minute later. With just over five minutes played, the teams would find themselves tied at 11 before Mars Hill regained the lead off of two Javonte Cook free throws.
The teams traded the lead back and forth several times over the next four minutes before a three-pointer from Jarren Cottingham provided the Bulldogs a three-point edge with 12:18 left in the half. A made free throw from Austin Stone just over a minute later tied the game at 20 and Mars Hill once again retook the lead 30 seconds later with a made layup from Tavion Trimble.
Neither team had a decisive edge down the stretch, remaining within one to two points of one another until a 4-0 run in the final minute of play for Mars Hill gave the Lions a 39-35 lead heading into the half.
The Bulldogs' Jakob Dawkins and Marco Haskins recorded 11 and 10 points, respectively, in the opening 20 minutes to lead all players. Matthew Powell paced the balanced Lions' offense with eight points, followed by seven apiece from Brooks and Stone.
Mars Hill carried over their momentum from the end of the first into the second half with another 4-0 run, extending their streak to eight straight points. The Bulldogs scored 10 of the next 13 points to pull within two before a three-pointer from Powell extended the lead back to five for the Lions. Haskins returned the favor 22 seconds later, trimming the deficit to two with a three-pointer of his own.
Wingate tied the game on a couple of occasions just over seven minutes later, but regained the lead with 13:44 left to player when Haskins, who was fouled on a three-point attempt, hit his third free throw in a row to give the Bulldogs a 52-51 lead. Over the next five and a half minutes, Mars Hill found themselves down by eight. With 7:51 left in the contest, they began their comeback bid.
Two converted free throws from Dotson Griffin closed the margin to six points and was the catalyst for an 8-0 run to tie the game at 69 with less than five minutes to play. Griffin had four of the eight points. The tie was short-lived as a three-pointer from Frankie Johnson gave the Bulldogs the lead once again.
Ever resilient, Mars Hill tied the game one last time with 2:32 to play with a Brooks dunk, but Haskins, on the ensuing possession, drained a three-pointer and was fouled on the way down. His trip to the charity stripe proved fruitful as he completed the four-point play. The Bulldogs padded their lead to seven to take down Mars Hill.
Haskins led all players with 15 points in the half and ended the contest with 25 points, shooting 8-of-11 from the floor, including 4-of-6 from beyond the arc. Dawkins ended the game with 18 points.
Brooks dropped 14 points in the second half and finished the contest with 21 to go along with his team-high eight rebounds. Powell added 16, followed by Javonte Cook's 11.
While Mars Hill outshot Wingate 71 to 47 percent from the free throw line, the Bulldog's 48 percent three-point shooting topped Mars Hill's 28 percent.
The Lions travel to Tusculum on Wednesday, January 9th to take on the Pioneers. Tipoff is scheduled for 8 p.m.