MARS HILL, N.C. – Junior guard Bennett Wilson received an inbounds pass with 2.1 seconds left and drained a three in front of the Lions bench, sending the team into an absolute frenzy as Mars Hill defeated Wingate 90-88 on Saturday evening in a South Atlantic Conference showdown inside Chambers Gymnasium. Trailing for more than 38 minutes in the contest, the Lions showed true grit down the stretch as they improved to 3-4 overall and 1-1 in the conference, while Wingate fell to 2-6 overall and 1-3 within the league.
Mars Hill placed four scorers in double-figures with Vernon Jackson pouring in a team-high 15. Wilson added 13 while Valentin Bauer and Justin Hartfield chipped in 12 each. Dotson Griffin added 10 points and three boards. As a team the Lions shot 51.4% (36-70), including nine triples. Wingate dominated the boards with a 44-24 advantage, but the Lions forced 18 Bulldog turnovers, compared to their five. With those 20 miscues the Lions were able to score 20 points, while the MHU bench outscored Wingate 35-15.
The Bulldogs jumped out to a quick 16-4 lead as Mars Hill struggled to find its identity on the offensive end of the floor. A layup by Bauer at the 10:41 mark capped off an 18-8 run by the Lions to cut the deficit to 24-22. That two-point hole continued to a 37-35 score until Wingate scored six straight and 8-of-10 to regain a comfortable margin at 45-37 and went into the half leading 49-40.
A seesaw battle ensued to start the second half as the Lions chipped away at the lead, but Wingate continued to control the game. With the score at 78-71 in favor of the visitors, Mars Hill used a crucial 16-8 run over a span of five minutes to take its first lead of the contest at 87-86. After a compilation of missed shots and turnovers on both sides, Wingate's Pete Griffin was fouled with 13 seconds remaining in regulation and proceeded to knock down the two clutch free throws to give the Bulldogs the lead back at 88-87.
On the next Lions possession, the Blue and Gold tried to find the basket before time expired, but the ball was knocked out of bounds off a Bulldog defender. The ensuing inbounds set up Wilson for the game winner.
The Lions will return to action on Monday, December 5 as they travel outside of the conference to take on UNC Greensboro. Game time is scheduled for 7 p.m.