• 52°

College basketball: It’s late, but Catawba men have won 3 straight

By Mike London


SALISBURY —  It was Senior Night for Catawba’s men’s basketball, and the Indians won for the 100th time against South Atlantic Conference rival Lenoir-Rhyne.

The 91-80 final told a good chunk of the story. It was as breezy as it sounds. Catawba scored quickly and efficiently, sharing the ball, shooting 50 percent from the field and putting five men in double figures. The Indians led for all but about a minute, and that was early.

The Indians made free throws (17-for-22).

The 3-point line, Catawba’s worst enemy during leaner times, has become their buddy. The Bears (8-5) clanged away at a 5-for-23 success rate from long range. The Indians were a respectable 10-for-26 on 3s for 38.5 percent.

“The 3-point line was a detriment for us early this season,” head coach Rob Perron said. “But we’re defending the 3 better and shooting it better. We don’t have to shoot a great percentage on 3s to win, just a decent percentage.”

Shots are falling. So are opponents. There’s been a total mood swing from where things stood a few weeks ago.

“Two weeks ago, everybody was down,” point guard Marcus Burwell said. “But now we’re up. A lot of guys are playing well. It’s fun.”

Burwell, a “rookie” senior had 23 points and nine rebounds, some of them high-rising defensive boards at crunch time.

“Coach told me I needed to crash, so I did,” Burwell said.

It distressed Burwell that the stat sheet showed he was responsible for five of Catawba’s 17 turnovers, but he had four assists and keyed the convincing victory as much as anyone.

Darius Simmons, an extra-quick guard, scored 25 for the Bears. Forward RJ Gunn had 21.

Catawba is now 7-10, which doesn’t sound like much, but after getting spanked at Newberry on Feb. 15, the Indians were 4-10. So they’ve won three straight, putting up 86, 94 and 91 points in the process.

“We know we can still lose to anybody in our league,” Perron said. “But we’ve also started to realize that we’ve got the pieces to beat anyone in our league. We’re in an unprecedented season where we’ve had to make unprecedented decisions, and it’s been so hard to get into any sort of rhythm,. But our guys have stuck with it. They’ve kept playing. Now we’re playing our way into getting it together.”

Two of the 13 teams are already out of the upcoming SAC tournament due to COVID situations, league-leading Lincoln Memorial and UVa-Wise. That leaves 11. Catawba has moved up enough in the standings that it will get to host a first-round home game on Saturday. The first-rounders will be 6 vs. 11, 7 vs. 10 and 8 vs. 9.

Catawba led by as many as 13 in the first half and took a 43-33 lead to the  break because of the work of 6-foot-8 reserve Tralynn Spencer.

It came out of nowhere as Spencer averages 2.1 points per game and plays 5 minutes per game.  But he went berserk, shooting 6-for-7 in the first half and making four 3-pointers.

Spencer played only five quiet minutes in the second half, but he put Catawba in charge when the Indians needed someone to get hot. And when he heated up like summer asphalt, his teammates looked for him and found him.

Burwell, senior Larry McLeod (16 points, 5 assists, 1 windmill dunk) and freshmen Bernard Pelote (15 points, 11 rebounds) and Caleb Robinson (10 points in 11 minutes) carried the load in the second half.

Dependable DJ Johnson drew a Senior Night start and contributed four points and four rebounds.

Burwell made dazzling shots in the last three minutes when Lenoir-Rhyne still had a chance.

Catawba’s lead was 73-67 at the 2:58 mark when Burwell calmly drained a step-back 3-pointer. With 2:05 left, McLeod somehow made a jumper as he was crashing to the floor for a 76-69 lead.

With 1:18 left, Burwell and McLeod were on a 2-on-1 break when Burwell unexpectedly pulled up from well beyond the 3-point line and delivered the backbreaking swish.

“My shot was there on,” Burwell said with a smile. “Coach didn’t like that one on the break much — until it went in.”

Pelote, a 6-foot-8 freshman wing player who is starting to come on, has elevated his game in recent weeks and has moved into a starting role.

“My confidence was low for a lot of the season,” Pelote said. “But now I’m more comfortable. Now my confidence is high.”

“He paid his dues,” Perron added. “He’s put in a lot of extra time in the gym and he’s learning to play in pressure situations. It’s hard to simulate game pressure in practice. You have to play in some of those tough games before you start to figure it out.”

Pelote had a momumental game at Anderson on Saturday — 25 points and 12 rebounds — and appears to be a star of the future.

“It’s like we’re moving up a spot in the standings every day,” Perron said. “I wish there were more games.”

There’s just one game left for Catawba in the regular season. That’s at Wingate on Wednesday. Catawba is only 2-6 on the road and got hammered at home by Wingate, but there’s at least a chance the Indians could get their fourth straight win.

“It’s going to take four straight wins to win our conference tournament,” Perron said. “So going for four straight at Wingate is good practice.”


LENOIR-RHYNE (80) — Simmons 25, Gunn 21, Muldrew 12, Fowler 7, Bradford 6, Fields 5, McClain 4, Rice, Steele.

CATAWBA (91) — Burwell 23, McLeod 16, Spencer 16, Pelote 15, Robinson 10, Johnson 4, Nelson 3, Phillips 2, Whitfield 2, Bowen.

Lenoir-Rhyne     33   47    — 80

Catawba              43    48   — 91







City officials differ on how, what information should be released regarding viral K-9 officer video

High School

High school basketball: Carson girls are 3A champions


High school, college sweethearts marry nearly 50 years later


With jury trials set to resume, impact of COVID-19 on process looms

Legion baseball

Book explores life of Pfeiffer baseball coach Joe Ferebee


Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education to receive update on competency-based education


Biz Roundup: Kannapolis expects to see economic, housing growth continue in 2021


A fixture of downtown Salisbury’s shopping scene, Caniche celebrates 15th anniversary this month


Slate of new officers during local GOP convention; Rev. Jenkins becomes new chair


Landis officials narrow search for new manager to five candidates; expect decision within a month


Together at last: High school, college sweethearts marry nearly 50 years later


Rowan-Salisbury Schools sorts out transportation logistics in preparation for full-time return to classes

High School

Photo gallery: Carson goes undefeated, wins 3A state championship


Europe staggers as infectious variants power virus surge


Biden, Democrats prevail as Senate OKs $1.9 trillion virus relief bill


Senate Democrats strike deal on jobless aid, move relief bill closer to approval


Duke Life Flight pilot may have shut down wrong engine in fatal crash


Two NC counties get to participate in satellite internet pilot for students


PETA protesters gather in front of police department


UPDATED: Eight new COVID-19 deaths, 203 positives reported in county this week


Sheriff’s office: Two charged after suitcase of marijuana found in Jeep


Thomasville officer hospitalized after chase that started in Rowan County


Board of elections discusses upgrading voting machines, making precinct changes


Lawmakers finalize how state will spend COVID-19 funds