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Chowan falls in nail-biter

MURFREESBORO – After a heartbreaking last-second loss, 74-73, to Queens University of Charlotte in their season-opener Thursday night at the Jesse Helms Center, you might’ve expected Chowan University basketball coach Jim Tribbett to be crushed.

His young Hawks team had missed a golden opportunity to open their 2007-08 campaign by knocking off an opponent who made the NCAA Division-II Tournament a season ago. Instead he was upbeat.

&uot;I think this is a good measuring stick for us early,&uot; said Tribbett after the game, &uot;with what we have and what we’ve got to do. They’ll get more confidence as they realize it’s about using your teammates to be successful, and over time, our kids will figure that out.&uot;

Junior Aaron Scott led all scorers with 24 points while sophomore Jaleel Nelson had 13 and freshman Layth Mansour finished with 10.

Another newcomer, Raul Tutelea, finished with seven rebounds and four assists.

Darnell Evans led Queens with 18 points while Reggie Hopkins and John Thompson had 16 each, including Thompson getting the game winner on a short jumper with one second remaining.

The Hawks got the game off to a rousing start as Nelson made a steal at mid-court and flashed to the other end for a high-flying dunk that brought the crowd to it’s feet.

Chowan built an early lead of five points six minutes into the game after senior Roderick Ramsay made a lay-up off a Queens turnover.

The Royals clawed their way back and took their only lead near the twelve-minute mark on a free throw by Akeem Miskdeen, 10-9.

Chowan roared back and took a lead of as many as eight points four times in the half, the first coming on a Montell Williams three-pointer at the 7:42 mark.

The Hawks might’ve upped that margin several times in the half, but were plagued by missed free-throws (10-of-16) in the half.

Despite a pressure defense by the Royals the Hawks were able to work their half-court offense and went into the locker-room with a five-point lead, 34-29.

After a Nelson jump shot opened the second half and made the score 36-29 in Chowan’s favor the Hawks missed eight of their next nine shots before Mansour broke the drought with a follow shot and made it a four-point Chowan lead at 38-34.

Queens picked up the pressure defense in the half and after a Chowan turnover led to a Thompson jump shot, the Royals had their second tie of the game at 38-all and took the lead seconds later on as Evans snared a rebound and took it the length of the floor for a lay-up and Queens’ first lead of the half.

The Royals never built a lead of larger than three points as Chowan defended the perimeter well and the Hawks took a pair of five point leads coming on a lay-up by freshman Charles Rhodes and later a Chris Kenon three-pointer.

Still, the Royals refused to yield, tying the contest for the seventh time at 62-62 with four minutes to play.

And that’s when the real drama of game began.

When Queens took a two-point lead, 66-64, on a lay-up and made foul shot by Thompson, Scott answered for Chowan with a three-pointer to push the home team back in front by one, 67-66.

A Thompson free throw tied the game with just over two minutes to play and after Chowan turned it over on an out-of-bounds play, Evans hit a three-pointer for Queens’ largest lead of the night at 70-67.

A Tutelea lay-up and a pair of free throws by Mansour put Chowan back in the lead, 71-70 with just 37 seconds left in the contest.

On Queens’ ensuing possession, Tutelea was called for a questionable blocking foul in the lane on Evans who made the free throws for a 72-71 Queens lead.

Chowan brought the ball up into their frontcourt where Jaleel Nelson twisted his way past a trio of Queens defenders and once again thrilled the crowd as he made the lay-up for a 73-72 lead and what looked like victory for the Hawks.

Then, with seven seconds remaining, Nelson almost stole the ball on the Queens inbounds play which might have sealed the win, but the ball went out of bounds off his hip and Queens coach Brian Good called his last timeout with seven seconds left.

On the inbounds play from the Chowan end-line Evans drove the length of the floor, but had his lay-up attempt blocked by Tutelea out of bounds, leaving less than three seconds to go in the game.

On the out of bounds play, Thompson slipped thru the Hawks defense and caught a high lob pass from Evans and his short jumper in the lane proved to be the game winner, as Mansour’s heave at the buzzer fell short.

&uot;They exposed some things defensively that we’re not good at tonight,&uot; said a relieved coach Good afterward. &uot;Luckily, though we got the win in the end, and maybe we can get better.&uot;

&uot;It teaches you every possession is important,&uot; said a disappointed Scott. &uot;You think about the turnovers a whole lot more when you lose a one-point game, but we’ve got 20-something games left.&uot;

&uot;It’s better to go ahead and get the kinks out now,&uot; chimed in Nelson, &uot;so that further down the line in the season we’ll be good.

We’ll come back and try to correct some things by Saturday.&uot;

The Hawks fall to 0-1 with the loss and face Lees-McRae this afternoon (Saturday) in a 4 p.m. contest.

NOTES: Former Chowan coach Bob Burke, now an assistant coach with the NBA Portland Trailblazers, attended the Queens game. Burke spent 22 seasons at Chowan finishing with an overall record of 454-258. Upon his resignation, he was the third winningest active coach in North Carolina behind Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski and Jerry Steele of High Point.

From 1980-1992 Chowan posted 12 consecutive 20-win seasons under Burke, who has the distinction of being one of a very few who have coached at every level from junior college thru the NAIA and Division’s III and II to NCAA Division I.