University of Mount Olive earned a win in front of a national television audience and a seven-year-old girl saw her wish come true as the Trojans sprinted to a 95-65 victory over Limestone College in Conference Carolinas men's basketball Saturday at Kornegay Arena. Tayon Gleaves scored a career-high 20 points and the Trojans used a 20-2 run across each half to break open a close game. The contest, which was part of the 33rd Annual Basketball Church Night, was televised nationally by American Sports Network.
During halftime, a "wish reveal" for Make-A-Wish® Eastern North Carolina was held for Isabella, a leukemia patient from nearby Goldsboro. "Izzy," as she goes by, was already aware that her wish had been granted, that she and her family would go on a trip to Hawaii. After members of the UMO Student-Athlete Advisory Committee showered her with Hawaiian-themed gifts, she learned the date of the Hawaii trip - June 10.
The near capacity Kornegay Arena crowd gave her standing ovations throughout the ceremony and erupted in rousing cheers when it was announced that this past Wednesday marked exactly six months without having to undergo any treatments.
After the ceremony, she nodded her head yes when asked if she was excited about her trip and shook her head no with a surprised look and a smile when asked if she knew anything about Saturday's activities.
As for why her wish was to go to Hawaii, Izzy had a simple answer: "Because I've never been there before."
Izzy and her family got to watch Mount Olive (13-7 overall, 8-4 Conference Carolinas) not only extend its winning streak to four, but also score at least 90 points in four consecutive games since a four-game stretch in February 2009.
The Trojans scored the first six points of the game on three-pointers by Dontrell Brite and Mike Moore, but did not start to pull away Gleaves hit a three-pointer and dished to Dominique Reed for a jumper to give Mount Olive its first double-digit lead at 37-27 with 4:58 left in the first half. Limestone (6-14, 4-8) got as close as seven after Brolin Floyd's three-point play with 2:03 remaining pulled the Saints within 42-35.
Mount Olive would limit Limestone to a single field goal over the next seven minutes of game time to put the game away.
JaQuan Blount made a layup and forced a turnover, and then followed a Brite three-pointer with a three of his own. Gleaves hit a three-pointer just before the buzzer to give the Trojans a 53-37 halftime lead.
Reed hit a pair of layups and Brite connected on another three as Mount Olive scored the first nine points of the second half and extended its lead to 62-37. Limestone scored its first points of the second half with exactly 15 minutes left in the contest on a steal and layup by Justin Crowder, but the Saints never got any closer than 21 points the rest of the way.
Jacque Brown set up a pair of alley-oop dunks that brought the crowd of 1,174 to its feet and exclamations from ASN commentators Darren Goldwater and Mike Thibault. Brown lobbed an inbounds pass from the baseline to Moore, who drove the lane and put home a thunderous two-handed dunk with 12:07 remaining. After connecting on a pair of three-pointers, Brown lobbed the ball from the top of the arc to James Rucker, whose dunk gave Mount Olive a 30-point lead at 80-50 with 7:50 left to play.
The lead grew as high to 32 points as the Trojans rested their starters for the final seven-plus minutes of the game.
Gleaves was 7-for-11 from the field, including 4-of-7 from three-point range. Brite hit 5-of-7 three-pointers for 17 points to go with five assists. Brown went 6-of-7 from the field and finished with 14 points, as did Reed.
Floyd led Limestone with 16 points, going 7-for-8 from the field.
Saturday's contest, along with the Trojans' women's basketball game against Limestone earlier in the day, marked the first-ever live national telecast of any sport to originate from the UMO campus. The game also marked the second year in a row the Trojan men's basketball team has played a regular season game on national television.
Mount Olive returns to action Wednesday as the Trojans travel up I-795 to Wilson, N.C., to take on Barton in a Conference Carolinas match-up. Tip-off is 7:30 p.m.