March 9, 2014
Asheville, N.C. - Western Carolina's James Sinclair turned in a phenomenal performance with a career-high 26 points as the No. 5 seeded Catamounts overcame a 15-point second half deficit topping No. 1 seed Davidson in a thrilling 99-97 instant classic in the Southern Conference Tournament semifinals Sunday night in the US Cellular Arena.
Western Carolina improves to 19-14 overall and will be chasing its 11th 20-win season and second Southern Conference Tournament title Monday night.
Sinclair was clutch for the Catamounts as 20 of his game-high 26 points after intermission. Trey Sumler followed with 25 points -his 31st career game with over 20 points, and Brandon Boggs tallied 21 points also topped the 20-point mark as the trio combined for 72 of Western's 99 points.
The Wildcats had six players reach double digits led by Chris Czerapowicz's 22. SoCon Player of the Year De'Mon Brooks had 17 as Tyler Kalinoski and Jake Belford each tallied 15.
Czerapowicz made it a 15-point game, 51-36, with 17:22 to go in the game. The Catamounts methodically worked its way back into the game from there.
A jumper by Sumler at 14:40 cut the lead inside 10 for good. That jumper came after a Brian Sullivan trey from the right corner. It also sparked a 12-3 run that got the Catamounts to within one, 60-59, on a Sinclair jumper at 10:51. The comeback was complete just 38 seconds later when two Sumler free throws gave Western its first lead since 4-2 in the first half.
The ebb and flow from that point is what makes March Madness truly special. The Catamounts led by as many as four before the Wildcats scratched their way back to a lead as Jake Belford capped a 7-0 with a three-point play at 6:22 for a 73-70 lead.
Sinclair and Sumler took over for Western. The duo combined for 14 points to knot the score at 84-all with 2:54 to go. Mike Brown put the Catamounts up two, 86-84, on a tip-in with 1:25 left. Brooks tied it just 13 seconds later. Neither team allowed a point for the remainder of regulation.
Sinclair got the scoring started in OT with a three-pointer. Western held the lead for nearly all of the initial four minutes of overtime before Jack Gibbs swung the pendulum back to Davidson, 96-95, with two free throws and 58 seconds remaining.
Boggs took a great feed from Kenneth Hall and slammed it home on the ensuing possession to get the lead back. Brooks then made one of two free throws inside 30 seconds to set up a final possession for the Catamounts.
Sumler drove from the right wing and was tripped up by Gibbs with three seconds to go. The senior hit both free throws. The Wildcats inbounds pass got to half court, but Kalinoski's three-point attempt under duress was awry sending Western to the title game.
Both teams shot well, 54.9 percent for Davidson to 51.6 percent for Western. Both got to the line and scored there, 33-41 for the Wildcats to 27-34 for the Catamounts. The difference in tonight's game came in the Cats' tenacity.
Western out-boarded Davidson 36-25 for the game with 15 offensive rebounds. That led to a 16-point advantage, 25-9, in second chance points. Clearly the difference in the game. Well, that and the clutch scoring from Sinclair and Sumler. The duo scored 34 of their 51 points in final 22:39 of the game.
The Catamounts await the winner of Wofford-Georgia Southern for the SoCon Championship and automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Game time is 9 p.m., Monday evening in ExploreAsheville.com Arena inside the U.S. Cellular Center. It airs on ESPN2.