CLEVELAND, Tenn. (Lee Athletics) -- In what has to go down as one of the strangest basketball games ever played in historic Walker Arena, Lee escaped defensive-minded William Carey and posted an important 61-54 SSAC victory on Friday evening.
Probably records have never been kept in this category but the Flames only scored one two-point field goal the entire evening. The scorebook shows that the Flames were 1-of-13 from inside the 3-point arc. On the other hand, they knocked down 10-of-12 3-point shots in the first half and finished the game by making 13-of-20 (65 percent).
Free throws also helped the Flames (8-3, 3-2). They marched to the line 30 times and were able to convert 20, most coming late in the hard-fought battle with the Crusaders.
Lee jumped out to a 17-point lead in the opening 20 minutes and held what appeared to be a comfortable 34-20 lead at the break. However, the long field goal attempts stopped falling in the second half and William Carey just kept plugging away and cut Lee's large margin to only four points.
Ryan Westbrooks helped keep the Flames on top by knocking down a pair of crucial 3-point goals to help stave off the Crusader comeback in the final eight minutes. However, the turning point may have been Lee's play on the defensive end. They held the Crusaders to only 35 percent shooting from the field and blocked 13 of William Carey's field goal attempts.
Patrick Shaughnessy recorded six blocks and Johnny Godette followed with five. Big Steve Bennett registered a pair of rejections. Lee also forced 11 William Carey turnovers but was guilty of 19 floor mistakes, 13 coming in the first half.
"We didn't do a good job of taking care of the basketball and getting it inside to our post players," said assistant coach Paul Cretton. "Thank God we were making the 3-point shots in the first half."
Duran Blue led the first-half charge by canning four treys in five attempts. He finished the contest with 15 points. Westbrooks was Lee's leader with 16 markers. He made 4-of-5 shots from behind the arc and was 4-of-6 from the charity stripe.
Tyrone Caldwell also helped the Flames seal the deal in the final minutes. He was a perfect 6-of-6 from the free-throw line and added one trey in garnering nine points and collected seven key assists.
Lee out-rebounded the Crusaders 34-28. Josh Henley was tops with nine. Godette claimed six and Ed Pellot-Rosa came away with five.
William Carey got a 16-point effort from Roderick Little. Fernando Garcia collected 13 points and grabbed five rebounds, while Jamal Doss added 10 points and five boards. The Crusaders also out-scored Lee in points in the paint, a remarkable 28-2 and had 18 markers off turnovers to only six for Lee.
"Coach (Steve) Knight has been in this business for a long time (30 years) and it shows," praised Cretton. "They did an excellent job on the defensive end and mixed in a little zone to help keep us off balance. I'm just glad coach (Tommy) Brown will be back on the sidelines for Saturday's game."
Brown has missed the Flames' last four games while serving a suspension for unsportsmanlike conduct during a game earlier this year. Lee went 3-1 under Cretton's direction in that time.
The SSAC cross-over series continues on Saturday afternoon. The Lady Flames will host red-hot Belhaven at 3 p.m. and the Flames will face one of their toughest challenges of the season in the Belhaven men at 5 p.m.
Information provided by Lee University Sports Information and GoLeeFlames.com.