ASHLAND, Va. -- A third time was not the charm for the Virginia Wesleyan College men's basketball team when they collided with the Yellow Jackets of Randolph-Macon College on March 1, but the fourth time was definitely fantastic.
No. 9 Virginia Wesleyan faced No. 1 Randolph-Macon in an NCAA Division III elite eight game on Saturday, on the Yellow Jackets' court, and got the win that eluded them three times this season. The Marlins took the lead with 1:59 remaining and kept it to the final buzzer, pinning a 49-47 setback on the Jackets before a packed house at the Crenshaw Gymnasium.
This was more than a win however, as the victory earned Virginia Wesleyan a berth in the final four for the third time in program history. VWC won the national championship in 2006 and took the runner-up finish in 2007. Virginia Wesleyan will compete in the national semifinals on Friday, March 20, at 8 p.m. against the Pointers of the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point. Massachusetts' Babson College will face Illinois' Augustana College in the earlier game at the Civic Center in Salem, Va.
For now however, the Marlins will savor the hard-fought win in a contest that produced seven lead changes and seven ties. Virginia Wesleyan (27-5) led through most of the game, posting a 23-17 advantage at the 2:51 mark of the first half and opening up a 36-29 lead with 13:21 remaining in the second half.
Randolph-Macon (28-3), which entered the game riding a program-record 25-game winning streak, battled back each time to the delight of the partisan home crowd. Evan Jackson (Richmond/Deep Run) and Akeem Holmes (King William/King William) came through with points in the last 1:17 of the first half to pull R-MC within a 24-23 score at halftime.
The Marlins held onto a slim lead through the first few minutes of the second half, but opened up some breathing room behind timely points. Junior Nick Doyle (Franklin/Southampton) nailed a triple, senior Greg Montgomery (Virginia Beach/Princess Anne) added four points and sophomore Kaelin Poe (Greensboro, N.C./Hampton Kecoughtan) scored on a layup, as VWC opened up a 36-29 lead.
A 8-1 R-MC run, including a triple from Michael Taylor (Apex, N.C./Grace Christian), helped wipe out the deficit as a layup by Marcus Badger (Plymouth Meeting, Pa./Plymouth-Whitemarsh) knotted the game at 37-all with 10:25 remaining in the game. The contest was tied four more times in the next five minutes, before the Jackets jumped out to a 47-44 lead on a triple from Lamont Moore (Waverly/Tidewater Academy) with 3:53 on the clock.
A VWC turnover gave the Jackets an opportunity to pad the lead, but a shot missed and a rebound resulted in a turnover. R-MC turned the ball over twice in 41 seconds and Virginia Wesleyan cashed in, as sophomore Khory Moore (Arlington/Wakefield) hit a pair of free throws and Montgomery scored on a layup, as the Marlins took a 48-47 lead with 1:59 on the clock.
Virginia Wesleyan missed on two scoring chances in the next minute, but the Marlins held onto the lead as R-MC turned the ball over two more times before senior Breven Lyons (Newport News/Warwick) was fouled. He hit the first of two free throws to give the Marlins a 49-47 edge with six seconds remaining.
Randolph-Macon had one more chance to tie the game in the final seconds, but a shot from the baseline missed the mark.
Virginia Wesleyan, which ranked first in the ODAC for most of the season in forcing opponent turnovers, employed pressure that helped to force 19 Randolph-Macon turnovers. VWC turned the ball over only eight times.
Montgomery led VWC in scoring with 14 points, while Moore tallied 12. Poe topped all rebounders in the game with nine.
Moore scored 18 points to finish as the only Yellow Jacket in double-figure scoring. He also led his team in rebounding with eight.