Motivated by the memory of last year’s tournament loss to Monmouth, undermanned Winthrop dominated the fourth quarter to pick up its second win of the season over the Mustangs, 48-39, on Monday night.

“This is huge. Losing last year in the prelim game to them, this one was huge for us,” said Winthrop center Anthony Owen, whose team beat Monmouth by three points in December.

Taylor Morang scored a game-high 17 points to lead the Ramblers (13-3), who were playing without injured contributors Matt Sekerak (knee) and Zach Steele (sprained foot).

“Our guys are tough. They’ve got to rally our guys. They’ve got to step up, and tonight, I think they did,” Winthrop coach Todd MacArthur said. “I’m really proud of Taylor. A lot of people have given him some crap in terms of his scoring being down this year. But when we needed him the most, he really stepped up.”

Morang took advantage of Monmouth’s game plan to contain leading scorer Jacob Hickey and attacked the hoop. When he wasn’t getting his own points or getting to the free throw line off the dribble, he was setting up his big men, particularly Owens, who finished with 14 points and seven rebounds.

“Taylor and I really gel well together,” Owens said. “We read (the defense) and we were able to execute with it.”

“Anthony’s my big man. He’s gotten a lot better over the years,” said Morang, who had six assists.

Morang and Owens worked the pick-and-roll coming out of a timeout to extend Winthrop’s lead to 43-36 with 1:56 remaining. Hunter Richardson’s 3-pointer pulled the Mustangs within four with 1:04 left.

Monmouth(10-6) had two chances to make it a one-possession game moments later but missed a 3-pointer and the ensuing putback attempt from in close. Morang, Ben Allen and Bennett Brooks sealed the win by making five of six from the free-throw line in the final minute.

“Execution in the fourth quarter,” said Monmouth coach Lucas Turner, whose team two of 14 shots from the floor and missed all four of its foul shots in the period. “We’ve played Dirigo, Boothbay, (and) this team tough. We’re coming up on the losing end of these, but we’re there. It comes down to fourth-quarter execution. They did it. They made a few baskets. We had some looks and didn’t make them.”

Brett Wilson led the Mustangs with 10 points. Marcques Houston added eight points and nine rebounds and was the object of a lot of Winthrop’s defensive attention.

“We were fronting the post and taking away the back side,” Owens said. “It worked well this time.”

“They were doing four in the box and every time he touched it there were two people on him,” Turner said. “They did an excellent job on him.”

The Ramblers went on a 9-0 run late in the first half on Morang’s 3-pointer and hoops by Dakota Carter, and Allen to take a 25-17 lead. Wilson’s trey just before the buzzer cut the lead to five at halftime.

Three-pointers by Wilson and Joe Menice gave Monmouth a 32-29 lead midway through the third quarter.

But Wilson and Houston went to the bench with foul trouble and Morang went to work, setting up Carter and Owens for easy layups as the Ramblers closed the quarter with an 8-2 run to take the lead for good.

Neither team scored in the first two minutes of the fourth, and when Monmouth went to a zone to try to shut off Morang’s penetration, MacArthur called time out.

The Ramblers came out of its huddle and held the ball for over two minutes before luring the Mustangs out of their zone.

“They came out in a 2-3 and they were sagging on us, so there’s nothing else we can do,” Morang said.

Once Monmouth switched back to man-to-man, Hickey drilled a jumper from the left elbow to make it 39-34.

The end result moved Winthrop to No. 3 in the Western C Heal Point standings and Monmouth to No. 6, tantalizing fans from both towns with the possibility of yet another rematch in Augusta in a few weeks.

“I’ve known (Monmouth players) since middle school coming up,” said Morang, whose father, Keith, was formerly the varsity baseball coach at Monmouth. “It’s different than going against a team that’s nowhere near here. We’re all basically friends, except for on the court. Then it gets a little heated.”


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