SoCon Tournament Central
ASHEVILLE, N.C. --- North Division No. 3 seed Western Carolina held off North No. 1 UNCG 82-77 in the semifinals of the Southern Conference Basketball Championship Sunday night to claim its first finals berth since 1996 when it defeated Davidson 69-60 to advance to the Big Dance.
Four Catamounts scored in double figures led by Keaton Cole and Harouna Mutombo with 17 apiece. Trey Sumler had 16 points, eight rebounds and five assists, while Preston Ross came off the bench to chip in 10 points and seven boards.
UNCG's Trevis Simpson tallied a game-high 24 points leading a quartet of Spartans in double digits. Derrell Armstrong added 14 points, seven rebounds and four assists, while Drew Parker and David Williams scored 11 and 10 points, respectively.
Western went up 12 three different times in the second half the last coming with 7:54 to go on Ross' tip-in of a Mutombo miss. However, the Spartans had an answer.
Back-to-back three-pointers by Parker sliced the lead to six before Armstrong made it a four-point game, 69-65, on a jumper with 5:29 left. After a Sumler jumper, Simpson made it a four-point deficit again at 4:43 with a layup.
Western retook momentum scoring five straight capped by Cole's trey from the right corner at 2:15 for a 76-69 lead forcing a UNCG timeout. The Spartans did not wilt.
Simpson hit four free throws on consecutive possessions to cut the margin to five. Armstrong's circus-shot layup with 1:09 remaining making it a three-point ballgame, 76-73. The Catamounts would not be denied hitting all six free throw attempts (Mutombo, Cole and Sumler) in the final 36 seconds to cement the five-point win.
Western Carolina will take on the winner of Davidson-Elon in Monday's championship game at 9 p.m. The game can be viewed on the ESPN2.