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DUE WEST, S.C. — The Barton College men’s basketball team clinched no worse than a fourth-place regular-season finish and locked up a first-round home game in the NCAA Division II Conference Carolinas tournament with a 76-72 road conquest of Erskine College on Wednesday evening.
With two regular-season league contests on the road remaining, the Bulldogs of head coach Ron Lievense climbed to 11-5 in the conference and to 15-11 in all games in completing a regular-season sweep against the Flying Fleet (4-11, 9-15 CC).
Emmanuel College could deadlock Barton for fourth place in the final standings, but is ineligible for play beyond the regular season.
The Bulldogs, ahead 32-31 at halftime, built up a nine-point lead (69-60) with two minutes, 16 seconds remaining and did not allow the Fleet to draw any closer than the final margin.
Both teams shot for better than 50-percent accuracy from the floor, with Barton hitting 30 of 57 attempts for 52.6-percent accuracy as compared to 28 of 47 and 59.6 percent for Erskine. The Fleet swished 8 of 15 attempts from 3-point range as compared to 6 of 18 for the Bulldogs.
Barton lost the rebounding battle 27-24 but committed only nine turnovers as compared to 18 for Erskine. The Bulldogs recorded 14 steals — including five by 6-foot-6 sophomore Isaiah Buck-Lowman.
Buck-Lowman also emerged the Bulldogs’ leading scorer with 21 points. Bobby Stenborg, a 6-4 junior, added 16 points. Sparking Barton in a reserve role was freshman Isaiah Reddish with 12 points and a game-high eight rebounds. Reddish drained each of his five field-goal attempts.
Buck-Lowman’s 3-pointer gunned Barton to a 69-60 margin with 2:16 remaining. Helping the Bulldogs stay out front was Stenborg with a 3-pointer, sophomore Michael Boykin with a steal and Buck-Lowman with a pair of free throws that left Barton out front 74-64 with 20 seconds remaining.
The Fleet sneaked as close as 74-69 before Barton junior Zach Grant canned a pair of free throws with nine seconds to go. Erskine’s Monta Houston ended the scoring with a 3-pointer with four seconds showing.
The first half produced seven lead changes and two ties before the Bulldogs seized their one-point edge on Buck-Lowman’s jumper with seven seconds remaining. Erskine led 13-5 with 12:58 to go .
The Fleet surged to a 46-42 cushion with 13:24 left on Zezmon Steeple’s layup. After five lead changes, the Bulldogs reclaimed the lead for keeps at 57-56 on Boykin’s jumper with 6:30 on the clock.
The jumper ignited a 9-0 spree that included layups from Stenborg and sophomore Jeff Gordon and a 3-pointer from junior Matt Woods. Woods fired in another 3-pointer approximately 80 seconds later.
Jordan Watson, accurate on 9-of-13 shots from the floor, drilled in a game-high 25 points for the Fleet. Steeple tossed in 14 points and Trent Smoot 10.