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Rams drop regular season finale to Blue Bears on Senior Day

By Demetrius Dillard
On February 20, 2016

In a CIAA showdown between Southern Division rivals WSSU and Livingstone at C.E. Gaines on Senior Day, the outcome came down to the final seconds, as both teams looked to end the regular season on good terms.

Just inside of five minutes WSSU was up on Livingstone 67-57, and most of the crowd in Gaines Center was confident that the Rams would finish the season finale with some much-need momentum going into the CIAA tournament.

However, the momentum of the game took an abrupt shift beginning with a put-back lay-in by Livingstone guard Ty Newman, whose second-half heroics lifted the Blue Bears (12-16, 7-9) to a dramatic 71-69 win over the Rams (11-16, 5-11).

Senior guard Demone Harrison had a career day for the
Rams despite the 71-69 loss to Livingstone on Feb. 20.
He netted a game-high 26 points in 23 minutes.

Photo Credit: WSSU Photography

With the game tied at 69 as time ran out, Newman hit a running bank shot to give the Blue Bears a two-point lead with one second remaining. On the following possession, Keith Armstrong inbounded a baseball pass to C.J. Ford, who heaved up a 35-footer that would get blocked as the buzzer sounded.

WSSU head coach James Wilhelmi acknowledged the volatile swing of the game.

“Basketball’s a funny thing, you know, because you can feel like you’re in total control,” Wilhelmi said, “but really it only takes four or five trips and everything can flip, and suddenly it’s a ball game.”

“We had open looks. We didn’t put ‘em down. And, you know, we weren’t able to get some stops at the end.”

Rams guard Demone Harrison scored a career-high 26 on 4-of-6 shooting from 3, 7-of-14 shooting from the field and a perfect 8-for-8 from the charity stripe.

“Demone was terrific,” said Wilhelmi of the 6-foot-3 senior transfer.

“He did a great job of knocking down some shots when we needed them.”

Newman, a 6-foot-4 forward, went scoreless in the first half but finished the afternoon with a team-high 14 points on 4-of-8 shooting and a perfect 6-for-6 from the free-throw line. He also had seven rebounds and three assists.

Livingstone Head Coach James Stinson said the coaching staff benched Newman for most of the first half, and was originally unaccepting of the adjustment that was made. But when Newman’s time came, he showed up big for the Bears’ in their come-from-behind win, according to Stinson.   

“We sat him for a reason for a long period of time … he just didn’t accept the adjustment we made,” Stinson said of Newman.

“I told him [Newman], ‘You only get one chance in life. This is your opportunity to do something special,’ and ‘How do you want your story to be written? If you want your story to be written that you gave up and quit on your team that will be the story.’ So with that being the case, he kind of stepped it up and started doing a much better job for us the second half.”

With the loss, the Rams are ranked fourth in the CIAA Southern Division, and will play their first postseason game in the CIAA tournament-opener on Feb. 24 in Charlotte. Wilhelmi said he anticipates a “fun” week of basketball, and is focused on taking things day by day.

“At the end of the day, it’s an opportunity to have a fun week of basketball,” he said.

“People will talk about how it’s such an uphill battle and how difficult it could be, but we’ll be getting to play basketball for a week so hopefully we can get it started one day at a time – whatever our matchup is on Tuesday (Feb. 23), we’ll get ready for that, and just see where the tournament takes us.”

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