VIRGINIA BEACH -- There was one major difference between Virginia Wesleyan College's effort in the first half of Saturday's game against the Quakers of Guilford College and the effort in the second half.
The 10th-ranked Marlins turned on the defense in the final 20 minutes of the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) contest.
After surrendering 40 points in the first half, the Marlins (21-4, 13-3) began filling lanes, contesting shots, and playing aggressively all over the court en route to limiting the Quakers (17-8, 10-6) to just 24 points.
The defensive effort, complemented by an alert offense, combined to carry Virginia Wesleyan to an impressive 85-64 victory in the final regular-season game for both teams at the Jane P. Batten Student Center.
While seniors Greg Montgomery (Virginia Beach/Princess Anne) and Breven Lyons (Newport News/Warwick) were offensive catalysts in the second half, combing to score 23 points, sophomore Kaelin Poe (Greensboro, N.C./Hampton Kecoughtan, Va.) made his presence know defensively. Shots that were open to the Guilford big men in the first half, were not there in the second half, as Poe was able to force some hurried shots the resulted in Marlin rebounds.
A turning point in the game took place when Lyons stole the ball and fired it head to Montgomery, who evoked a roar from the crowd when he dunked the ball to give VWC a 54-49 lead with 12:43 remaining to be played. Seconds later, after a couple missed Guilford scoring opportunities, the Marlins started to create some distance when Lyons drilled through a triple, off an assist from sophomore Tim Jones (Richmond/Henrico).
It was all part of a 10-2 run by the Marlins, including two key baskets by Poe, helping VWC to build a 62-51 lead with 9:29 on the clock. Zachary Houston (Hickory, N.C./St. Stephen's), Matt McCarthy (Rockville, Md./Good Counsel), and Jarrod Rogers (Archdale, N.C./Trinity) followed with Guilford scoring that cut the spread to 64-58, but the Quakers never got closer the remainder of the game.
Senior Cam Owens (Centerville/Centreville), Montgomery, and Lyons combined to score eight unanswered points, as Virginia Wesleyan opened up a 72-58 lead with 4:16 remaining. The Marlins went on to outscore the Quakers 13-4 in the in the final 3:29, receiving three-point scores from Khory Moore (Arlington/Wakefield School), Nick Doyle (Franklin/Southampton), and Lyons to help create the final margin of victory.
Long-range shooting helped catapult Guilford into the early lead in the game, led by Trever Hyatt (Connelly Springs, N.C./East Burke), who nailed three in the first five minutes. The Quakers led by as many as nine points midway through the half, but could not pull away. Key shots by Brandon Mitchell (Albany, Ga./Westover), Moore, and Jones helped bring the Marlins back, leading to a Montgomery dunk that gave VWC a 27-26 lead.
Will Freeman (Rice, Va./Richmond, N.C.) and Will Koppenhaver (Boone, N.C./Watauga) scored to return the lead to Guilford however, and the Quakers held off the Marlins to take a 40-37 lead into thalf. Moore hit a triple to tie the score nine seconds in to the second half and the game was tied at 42 and 44, before the Marlins took the lead for good on five straight points from Montgomery.
Montgomery hit 7-of-9 field goals and finished with 15 points, but it was Moore who led the Marlins overall, scoring 19 points, including a 4-of-8 showing from three-point range. Lyons also hit 4-of-8 triples, and 7-of-11 shots overall, to score 18 points.
While both teams hit five triples in the first half, Virginia Wesleyan continued the long-range success in the second half. The Marlins hit 6-of-10 triples, and 11-of-25 overall, while Guilford hit only 2-of-9 attempts in the second half after hitting 5-of-8 in the first half. McCarthy and Hyatt led the Quakers with three triples each. McCarthy scored 14 points overall, Koppenhaver added 12, Hyatt finished with 11, and Freeman tallied 10.
Both the Marlins (No. 2 seed) and the Quakers (No. 3 seed0 have received first-round byes in the upcoming ODAC tournament and will begin competition in the event on Thursday, Feb. 26, at the Civic Center in Salem.