LaGrange could not slow down hot-shooting N.C. Wesleyan in a key USA South game Saturday in Mariotti Gym. The visiting Battling Bishops (14-6, 7-2 USA South) shot over 60 percent in topping the Panthers (14-6, 5-4 USA South) 114-98.
"We have to tip our hats to N.C. Wesleyan. They came out and shot the ball extremely well from start to finish," said Coach Kendal Wallace. "Our defensive game plan did not work and when we give up second and third opportunities to a team shooting like that, things don't go well."
Senior Braxton Ford led the Panthers with 21 points. It was the fourth game in the last five Ford has topped 20 points. Justyn Olson followed with 19 points, while Alex Bonner and Mark Wagner added 16 and 15 respectively.
The Bishops shot 65.5 percent in the game, including making 13-of-26 3-point attempts. The Panthers shot 55.9 percent in the second half, finishing the game at 49.3 percent.
The Panthers fell behind 10-0 to start the game. They trailed by as many as 15 midway through the first half.
But the Panthers clawed their way back in the game by halftime. Jacob Gaetanos' jumper late in the half got the Panthers within two, 49-47, at the break.
The Panthers came out in the second half to take their first lead of the game. Back-to-back shots by Wagner and Olson gave the Panthers a 59-56 lead less than four minutes into the half.
The Bishops came back to retake the lead for good. Marcus Williams' 3-pointer broke a 63-63 tie and the Bishops went on to build on the lead the rest of the way.
"We have been down before and know how to fight back. We must shift our focus from tonight and get ready for tomorrow," Wallace added. "Thanks to our fans for the continued support."
The Panthers host William Peace on Sunday at 3 p.m.