By Doug Hawley
Dalton State College’s high-flying men’s basketball team lost a 16-point halftime lead Friday night.
That will probably soon be forgotten by the Roadrunners fans after seeing their home team survive an 89-87 overtime skirmish with Concordia College of Selma, Ala., in the Carpet City Christmas Classic.
It’s the 13th victory in 14 games to start the season for the Roadrunners, who returned to the court this season after decades without sports at the school.
After leading 50-34 at intermission, the Roadrunners went frigid from the field and ran into some Hornets who eventually buzzed to a 57-55 advantage with 11:15 left in the second half.
“We showed our composure at the end when it counted,” Dalton head coach Tony Ingle said. “We knew that they were an excellent shooting team. They made a lot of good plays. We made a lot of bad decisions.”
Erich Allen kept the Roadrunners alive with a 12-footer to knot the count at 80-80 with 17 seconds left in regulation.
In the five-minute overtime, the Hornets (10-10) surged to an 84-80 advantage. The Roadrunners responded with Ricky Sears’ 3-pointer and Preston Earle’s dunk to take an 85-84 lead.
After Concordia tied it at 85 on Tavin Cumming’s free throw, Dalton State took the lead for good — and set up their ninth straight win — at 88-85 on Demetrice Jacobs’ 3-pointer with 1:45 left. The Hornets made two free throws and the Roadrunners one over the remainder of the game.
In the final seconds, the Hornets had a chance to win on Ken Atwood’s 3-pointer. However, the ball fell away from the rim.
“Our guys fought hard,” Hornets’ coach Fredrick Summers said. “I told them at the half that we were at war, and we came back. We had the right guy shooting the ball (at the end), but it just didn’t go in.”
Preston Earle had a game-high 26 points for the Roadrunners on 10-for-20 shooting. The 6-foot-4-inch junior netted 4 of his 9 attempts from beyond the 3-point arc.
“We just tried to play our game, and we won,” said Earle who also had a team-high 11 rebounds. “They’re the best-shooting team that we have played all year.”
Demetrice Jacobs proved a quality scoring complement for Earle with 23 points. Ricky Sears tallied 15 points and dished out nine assists.
Point guard Sean Tate added eight timely points and seven assists.
“We found a way to win,” Tate said. “We can’t afford to get complacent in the second half.”
Tavin Cummings led Concordia with 23 points.
The Classic finishes today with Dalton State taking on Belhaven University of Jackson, Miss., at 8 p.m. Cumberland University of Lebanon, Tenn., faces Concordia at 6 p.m.
In Friday’s early clash, Cumberland edged Bellhaven 60-58 on Marquel Hickerson’s layup as the buzzer sounded. Hickerson paced all scorers with 17 points.