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Catamounts Close Regular Season with Win over Mountaineers

Harouna Mutombo scored 16 points in his final game in the Ramsey Center on Saturday afternoon as the Catamounts downed Appalachian State, 83-75. (Photo by Mark Haskett).

Feb. 25, 2012

Box Score |  Photo Gallery  | Men's Basketball Senior Day Highlights

Cullowhee, N.C. - Trey Sumler scored a career-high 27 points as Western Carolina used a strong second half effort to send its three seniors out with a victory, defeating archrival Appalachian State, 83-75, on Saturday afternoon in the regular season finale for both squads.

Western Carolina (14-17, 8-10 SoCon) now awaits its final seeding for the Southern Conference tournament. The Catamounts can finish no lower than fourth in the North Division, and still have a shot at earning the No. 2 seed and first-round bye if both Elon and Samford lose tonight against UNCG and Chattanooga, respectively. ASU, which dropped its third-straight game, was relegated to the No. 5 seed with the loss.

Sumler was solid on the afternoon as WCU won its fourth-straight game, its longest winning streak of the season. The Rocky Mount, N.C., native was 9-of-16 from the floor with three 3-pointers, adding six points from the charity stripe on 6-of-7 shooting. Sumler added team highs with eight rebounds, six assists and three steals while playing all but one of the 40-minute game.

Playing in their final home game, redshirt senior Harouna Mutombo scored 16 points on 6-of-12 shooting while Keaton Cole scored nine points including two 3-pointers to add to his WCU single-season record, now with 102. The third senior, Sam Smithson, got in the game late recording a slam dunk to get on the board.

Sophomore Brandon Boggs chipped in eight points for the Catamounts while classmate Tawaski King scored five. Freshmen James Sinclair ignited WCU early with six points and Kenneth Hall scored five including a dunk in the winning effort.

Western Carolina trailed by as many as 12 in the first half as the Mountaineers were hot out of the gates, connecting on six of their first seven field goal attempts. G.J. Vilarino converted a Mike Neal steal into a slam dunk midway through the half to give ASU its largest advantage, 21-9.

Trailing by a dozen points, the Catamounts managed to outscore Appalachian State by a 21-to-9 count over the next seven minutes to tie the game for the first-time on a Cole free throw at 30-30. Sumler's jumper just before the buzzer sent the teams to the locker room tied at 34.

In the second half, WCU broke the game's eighth tie on a jumper by Mutombo at the 15:42 mark that started a 13-to-2 run and ended with the Catamounts holding an 11-point, 60-49 lead halfway through the final 20 minutes. Western Carolina was able to stretch its advantage to as many as 15 on consecutive 3-pointers by Sumler and Cole at the 3:47 mark.

The Mountaineers would not go away, though, whittling the margin down to just five points, 79-74, on 9-to-2 spurt including five points by Vilarino inside the final minute. But Sumler hit both free throws and Smithson iced it with a transition slam dunk as WCU scored the eight-point victory.

Appalachian State held a 39-30 edge in rebounds and shot 53-percent from the floor on the day, but the Catamounts converted 20 Mountaineer turnovers into 24 points on the day.

Appalachian State (12-17, 7-11 SoCon) put four in double figures with Andre Williamson scoring a team-high 15 off the bench. Nathan Healy and Mike Neal finished with 11 points apiece with Neal dishing out six assists for the Mountaineers.

Western Carolina opens play next week in the 2012 Southern Conference Men's Basketball Championship in Asheville, N.C.