LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN -- The Covenant men's basketball team jumped out to a 20-2 lead early and then forced a key turnover in the final 15 seconds to hold on for a 78-74 victory over William Peace in USA South action on Saturday inside Barnes PE Center.
The win was Covenant's (9-6, 8-0 USA South) fourth straight as the Scots remain atop the USA South West Division standings and are the lone unbeaten team in the league. William Peace (7-8, 3-4 USA South) has dropped three straight.
Covenant blitzed the visiting Pacers out of the gate with a barrage of 3-pointers. The Scots scored the first 18 points of the contest, including four 3-pointers, to take an 18-0 lead after a James Mitchell triple at the 15:24 mark of the first half. Another Mitchell trey made it 23-5 with 13:17 left as the junior connected on all five of his 3-point attempts in the first half.
Even though the Scots led by double digits for the majority of the opening 20 minutes, William Peace chipped away at the lead. A 3-pointer from Paul Dunlap in the final minute of the half got the Pacers within 43-37 at halftime.
The run for William Peace continued into the early portion of the second half as a John Ingram 3-pointer cut the Scots' lead to 47-43 with 17:37 left. Covenant would keep it a two-possession contest for nearly the entire half as the Scots answered every min-run from the Pacers with key baskets.
Up by six with under four minutes left, Noah Oetjen put the Scots back up by nine with his 3-pointer to make it 72-63. Will Crumly followed on the next possession with a jumper as Covenant held a nine-point edge.
In the final minute, William Peace made a final push as a Smith Gupton 3-pointer and a Tyson Sellers driving layup trimmed the margin to just two at 76-74 with 30.5 seconds left. William Peace had a chance to tie or take the lead in the final 20 seconds, but a Bailey Spragg deflection turned into a Mitchell steal with 13 seconds left.
Covenant would make just enough free throws in the final seconds to hold on for the win.
Spragg led the Scots with 18 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists. Mitchell finished with 17 points on 6-of-6 shooting, while Oetjen had 15 points and four assists. Crumly, who battled foul trouble for much of the game, still tallied 13 points and five rebounds. Mitchell Hollis chipped in nine points.
Covenant shot 54.9 percent (28-of-51) from the floor with 12 3-pointers, nine of which came in the first half.
William Peace was led by Sellers' 19 points and four steals. Gupton added 15 points, and Mikal Gaylord and Ingram had 12 apiece. The Pacers made 47.4 percent (27-of-57) for the game with 13 3-pointers.
Covenant hits the road next weekend for a pair of USA South games. The Scots are at Greensboro on Friday, Jan. 18 at 7:30 p.m.
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