Friday, January 4, 2013

Catamount Athletics Year in Review: #1

Catamount Athletics Year in Review: #2 - Western Carolina Faces Davidson in SoCon Title Game 

Seeded third in the Southern Conference's North Division, Western Carolina faced regular season South Division champion, Davidson, in the 2012 SoCon Tournament Championship at the U.S. Cellular Center in Asheville, NC.

Western Carolina advanced to its first SoCon tournament final since 1996 with an 82-77 victory over the top seed from the North, UNC Greensboro. Davidson dispatched Elon 83-67 to move into the tournament championship game, its first finals appearance since winning the title in 2008 - its' third of three-straight SoCon crowns.

Entering the Championship Game- the first between WCU and Davidson since 1999 - the Catamounts had won three-straight games over the Wildcats in SoCon tournament play to hold a 4-2 overall record. Included in that three-game streak is the 69-60 win in the 1996 championship game, WCU's lone league championship.

The Catamountswere were trying to become the first team since the 1939 Clemson Tigers to win four games en route to a SoCon Tournament title. Seeded third out of the North division, WCU is just the fifth team since beginning divisional play in the league to reach the championship game without being seeded first or second. In its current format, though, no team has advanced from the first round to win the title.

Rallying behind a raucous purple-clad crowd that gathered at the U.S. Cellular Center, the Catamounts erased a 13-point deficit to Davidson over the final 2:47 of regulation to tie the game at 78 on three clutch free throws by senior Keaton Cole to force overtime.

Trailing by two at the end of overtime, senior Harouna Mutombo made two free throws with 26 seconds remaining with the WCU defense tightening on a last-second jumper by Davidson's De'Mon Brooks to force a second overtime. In the second extra session, Davidson's Clint Mann converted a drive to the bucket with a two-handed slam dunk with one minute showing on the clock to put the Wildcats up for good in the 93-91 double-overtime victory.

"What a whale of a ballgame in terms of heart and competitive effort," WCU head coach Larry Hunter started in his post-game press conference. "Congratulations to Davidson, they have such a great ball club. They had to do what they had to do. I told the guys in the last timeout that I didn't think we had a third overtime in us so I said that we were going for the win. We got our best shooter a really good look, but it didn't go in."

"I've been a college coach for 41 years now. I told the guys in the locker room that I've never had a team spill their guts like that team did tonight. They gave me everything they had - we had breakdowns, but it wasn't because of what was in our chest (heart)," added Hunter.

"My hat is off to Larry Hunter and the Western Carolina Catamounts," opened Davidson head coach Bob McKillop during the post-game press conference. "They had one of the greatest tournament runs in my tenure in the Southern Conference. They never quit. They had their backs against the wall and they were relentless with their willingness to fight to the end."

Courtesy WCU Sports Information

Purple & Gold's Year in Review - Top 10:
10.  WCU's 2012 Football Season
9. The 2012 WCU Athletic Hall of Fame Class
8. Foster Tabbed First Team All-Southern Conference

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