Mount Olive cut a 19-point second-half deficit down to one, but the rally came up short as the Trojans concluded regular season play with a 78-70 loss to Barton in Conference Carolinas men's basketball Friday at Wilson, N.C. Kendall Hargrove led Mount Olive with 15 points, while Mahamed Ibrahim scored all of his 14 points in the second half and fueled the Trojans' comeback with three 3-pointers.
By virtue of Mount Olive's loss, the Trojans will be the No. 7 seed in the 2013 Conference Carolinas Tournament and play at No. 2 seed Limestone Monday.
Mount Olive (14-12 overall, 11-9 Conference Carolinas) trailed 53-34 before Ibrahim's basket with 12:13 left in the contest began the comeback. Hargrove had a tip-in, steals by Dory Hines and Dontrell Brite led to baskets, and another field goal by Ibrahim capped a 14-2 run to pull the Trojans within 55-48 with 6:53 remaining.
The Trojans held Barton (20-6, 15-5) without a field goal for more than eight minutes, but Gerald Boston kept the Bulldogs in the lead from the free throw line. Boston hit 8-of-8 free throws during Barton's field goal drought and 15-of-15 for the game.
Mount Olive missed its first 12 three-point attempts before Ibrahim's three with 6:26 left pulled the Trojans within 57-51. After a pair of Boston free throws, Deshaune Green scored Mount Olive's next five points with a dunk, a free throw and a layup off his own steal.
Jordan McCain stole a Barton pass at midcourt and drove in for an uncontested layup to pull Mount Olive within 59-58 with 4:09 remaining. Mount Olive had a chance to take their first lead of the game after Hargrove blocked a shot, but the Trojans missed a floater in traffic in the lane.
Boston hit four more free throws, but Ibrahim answered with a three from the top of the key with 3:08 left get the Trojans back within a field goal at 63-61. Barton went back up by four as Brian McNair pulled down the offensive rebound on a missed three-point attempt and found Keith Manley under the basket with 2:35 remaining for the Bulldogs' first field goal since a tip-in with 10:46 left.
Brite hit a three-pointer from the right corner on Mount Olive's next possession to make it a one-point game again at 65-64 with 2:19 left. But Boston answered with a three-point play, drawing a foul while putting a shot off the glass as he was falling in the lane. A Trojan turnover led to a fastbreak layup by McNair to extend Barton's lead to 70-64 with 1:49 remaining.
Ibrahim hit 1-of-2 free throws and after a defensive stop, hit Mount Olive's fourth consecutive three-point attempt to make it a 70-68 game with 1:15 left to play. Green answered a pair of Boston free throws with a basket to keep it a two-point game at 72-70 with 34 seconds left.
But those would be Mount Olive's final points as Jon Hart had a dunk on Barton's next possession and then forced a Trojan turnover. The Bulldogs hit 4-of-4 free throws in the final 16 seconds to seal the win.
Free throws proved to be the difference in the game, as Mount Olive was 10-for-21 from the line, compared to 20-for-22 for Barton.
Green came within a point of his second double-double of the season, finishing with nine points and a game-high 10 rebounds. Hines finished with seven points, seven rebounds and seven assists.
Boston led all players with 25 points, while Manley added 20 points.
Mount Olive entered Friday's contest tied for fifth place in the conference standings, one game behind Belmont Abbey, which lost at Coker Friday. A Trojan win would have given Mount Olive the No. 4 seed and a home game in the first round of the tournament.
The Trojans finished tied with Erskine for sixth in the conference standings. Mount Olive lost both regular season games to Erskine. Limestone and Barton tied for first in the regular season standings. Limestone lost twice to Barton this year.
Monday's tip-off is 7 p.m. and first round winners advance to the semifinal round Thursday. The championship game is scheduled for March 9. Highest remaining seeds host each round. The tournament champion earns an automatic bid to the 2013 NCAA Division II Southeast Regional.