Lancers edge Columbia, 70-69

Published 3:54 pm Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Playing just six miles from the Broadway Theater District in Manhattan, Longwood senior Leron Fisher stole the spotlight and put on a show with 18 points, eight assists and a highlight reel of fist pumps and clutch buckets to will the Lancers to a dramatic 70-69 win over Columbia Saturday evening in Levien Gymnasium.

Fisher was the star of a comeback story that saw the Lancers (3-4) rally from a 12-point deficit and clinch the upset win on a go-ahead layup from freshman Chris Shields with six seconds left on the clock. The loss snaps a four-game road losing streak for the Lancers, who have played five straight games away from home.

“We spent yesterday just talking about a makeover,” said Longwood head coach Jayson Gee. “We needed to change who we are because the current system doesn’t meet the group of players we have now. And who we have now, those guys bought in. They did a tremendous job.”

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The Lancers played without injured starting point guard Tra’Vaughn White for the second straight game, but Fisher was a willing understudy as Longwood’s primary ball-handler. The versatile combo guard registered his second game with at least eight assists this season and committed just three turnovers over a team-high 35 minutes on the court.

And in the final act of Saturday’s play, when Columbia (3-4) forward Alex Rosenberg erased Longwood’s lead by sinking two free throws with 17.8 seconds left on the clock, Fisher stayed in character and remembered his lines. After Rosenberg snatched the hard-fought lead from Longwood’s grasp, Fisher took the ball across half court with the clock ticking down to zero. He rolled off a screen from teammate Lotanna Nwogbo and with one pass turned the denouement in Longwood’s favor, feeding an open Shields underneath the basket for the game-winning layup.

“Leron was a star tonight,” Gee said. “He’s known for making big plays. He has a different personality. He’s that guy you sometimes want to kill,

especially if you’re on the other team. He talks. He has a killer instinct. He wants to make tough plays on the court, and that says a lot about who he is and what he’s all about.”

Shields’ go-ahead bucket was part of a 65.2 percent shooting effort in the second half for the Lancers, who overcome 15 Columbia three-pointers and a 23-point effort from hot-shooting guard Grant Mullins. Fisher, who also ended the first half with a buzzer-beating three-pointer, scored nine points after the break and dished out five assists that led to another 11 points.

Longwood’s supporting cast behind Fisher was small but impactful, consisting of a shorthanded eight-man rotation compared to the 12-man contingent deployed by Columbia.

Kanayo Obi-Rapu played the biggest supporting role, scoring 12 of his 15 points in the second half, including back-to-back three-pointers inside the final four minutes that gave the Lancers their first lead of the game at the 2:33 mark. Nwogbo added 14 points, Khris Lane went for nine points and seven rebounds, and Shields finished with eight off the bench.

“Being undermanned, we had to take that as a positive,” Gee said. “We have to understand that we’ll get some troops back down the road when guys get healthy, but right now we are who we are. We have to accept it and we have to believe in it.”

Saturday’s performance marked the curtain call to a six-day road trip for the Lancers, who traveled from Farmville, to Bangor, Maine, and then to New York City over Thanksgiving break. The Lancers will return home Wednesday for their Big South opener against High Point at 7 p.m.