HICKORY, N.C. - Brevard College’s Josh Roper (Charlotte, N.C.) had 23 points and Carson-Newman’s Cameron Sharp (Knoxville, Tenn.) buzzer-beater was waved off at the third-seeded Tornados beat the seventh-seeded Eagles, 73-72, in the semifinals of the 2010 Food Lion Men’s South Atlantic Conference Basketball Tournament on Saturday afternoon in Hickory, N.C.
Brevard (20-9) advances to face top-seeded Catawba College in the championship game on Sunday afternoon. Tipoff is at 2 p.m.
Carson-Newman’s season ends at 11-18.
Carson-Newman had a number of opportunities, including one that came a moment too late, on the game’s final possession.
After a Sharp three-pointer closed the game to its final score, senior Jordan Dixon (Clinton, Tenn.) stole the ensuing inbounds pass following a C-N timeout. The Eagle guard would miss a jumper with eight seconds to play, but the Eagles kept possession after BC lost the ball out of bounds.
Sharp missed a corner jumper with five seconds to play, but C-N’s Quinche’ Dowdell (Oak Ridge, Tenn.) ended up with the rebound. His put back attempt was blocked back to Sharp, who buried a jumper from the free throw line as the horn sounded, but was immediately waved off for being after the buzzer.
The Tornados rallied from a 66-63 deficit with six minutes to play behind six points from Jonathan Whitson (Clyde, N.C.). His running jumper with 1:05 to play gave Brevard a 73-69 lead, the only two possession lead be either team in the final nine minutes of the game.
In all, the lead changed 16 times and the game was tied nine times.
Senior Nathan Whitmire carried the Tornadoes in the second half. The senior finished the game with 20 points, 17 in the second half, including 7-of-7 at the line.
In all, Brevard made 23-of-29 free throw attempts. C-N was just 9-of-14 at the line.
Carson-Newman jumped out to a 10-point lead in the first half behind hot long-range shooting. The Eagles knocked down 7-of-15 three-pointers in the first half, including making four-straight to build to a 33-23 lead at the 3:58 mark of the first half.
BC would close the half on a 9-4 run, including two buckets in the final minute of the half by Roper, to cut it to 37-32 at the break. He had 13 points in the half.
Brevard would continue its run, and open its largest lead of the game in the opening moments of the second half. A Whitson jumper at the 17:39 mark capped a 20-4 Tornado run as they moved out to a 43-37 lead. Whitmire was 3-of-3 from the floor during the stretch and had 10 points during the run.
The Eagles bounced back as steals by Dowdell and senior Tray Okoth (Richmond, Va.) led to a Dixon three-pointer and an Okoth layup, to cut the BC lead back to two at 44-42.
Whitson finished the game with 17 points and eight rebounds for Brevard. He also had five blocked shots.
Okoth led five Eagles in double figures with 15. Sharp added 14, while Dixon chipped in 13, as did junior Erwin Staten (Huntsville, Ala.), who was 3-of-7 from behind the arc.
Head coach Mike Jones: “Obviously, we’re thrilled. It has been a remarkable season for us. This group of seniors have been with me three, four, some five years. They were with me when we won nine games and four games. We were gearing ourselves towards this season, and here we are, fighting for the top.”
“Josh Roper really played well tonight. His ability to get to the rim was huge. He proved why he was an All-Conference player.”
“We are fortunate to win giving up 16 offensive rebounds. That’s something we have to correct going into tomorrow.”
Head coach Dale Clayton: “I’m extremely proud of our players and their effort. They kept fighting back, fighting back. We did a good job on the boards, something that hurts us in our last game against them.”
“The free-throws were tough. They made 14 more in a one-point game. That’s tough.”