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Hawks end skid

MURFREESBORO – From what appeared a near-blowout became the win that almost wasn’t.

Chowan University’s men’s basketball team broke their five-game losing streak Saturday night thanks to some clutch free throw shooting.  It carried the Hawks to an 90-86 win over Shaw University at the Helms Center.

As in their three previous games, the Hawks had no trouble scoring – once again having five players in double-figures – or out-rebounding an opponent (28-to-24). This time it just might have been pacing.

&uot;Some of our weaknesses were exposed tonight,&uot; said a relieved coach Jim Tribbett after the game. &uot;We played down to stretch to keep from losing instead of playing to win, and we’ve got to learn to close these things out.&uot;

Aaron Scott led three Hawks with 15 points, all in the first half; and but for one missed free throw would have had a perfect shooting night. The Lawrenceville, Virginia junior was 6-for-6, including both his three-point attempts and 1-for-2 from the charity stripe.

Chris Kenon also had 15 as did freshman Charles Rhodes, who scored a career-high – eclipsing his old mark of 13 points set against Mars Hill back on December 1st.

&uot;I used to only shoot three’s&uot;, said the grinning 6-4 first-year player from Chapel Hill after the game. &uot;Now I’m trying to cut to the middle and get lay-ups and some inside touches.&uot;

It was a tight contest for most of the first-half, with three ties and neither team getting a lead of more than five points.

With the Hawks up, 39-36, Scott buried a three-pointer to ignite an 8-0 Chowan run and the Hawks took the first of two 11-point leads before the break.  At 49-40 with less than a minute to play, senior Roderick Ramsey buried his only three-pointer of the game to push the lead to twelve and that was also the margin at halftime, with Chowan leading, 54-42.

The Hawks built a lead of as many as 19 points three times in the second half, and took their biggest lead of 22 eight minutes in as Joe Brice hit a trey to make it, 72-50 Chowan; and it looked as if the Hawks would make it a rout. 

But the Bears, led by John Kornegay – who paced Shaw in scoring with 18 points – began to mount a steady comeback, and in five minutes had trimmed the now cold-shooting Hawks’ lead to just three points with three minutes left to play.

The lead was four when Chowan freshman Layth Mansour blocked a Cori Gaither jumper that fired up the crowd, and after a pair of Lando Morrison free-throws the lead was back to six with less than two minutes left in the game.

Kornegay hit another three-pointer and after failing to score on three attempts beneath the basket at the 55-second mark, Morrison fouled out with 42 seconds left and two Robert Espinoza free throws made it a two-point game and you could sense the nervousness in the crowd of over 200.

With 19 seconds left Mansour made 1-of-2 free-throws to push the Hawks’ lead back to three and third-year Bears’ coach and former Duke star, Robert Brickey, called time out to set up a play.

It turned out to be a twisting lay-up in the lane from Damola Obadina and with six seconds left, Chowan’s once-mighty lead was down to a single point.

Fouled on the in-bounds play, Chris Kenon made two free-throws for a three-point lead with four ticks remaining, then returned the favor by fouling Shaw’s Will Graham as no time expired off the clock. 

However, Graham missed his first free-throw and after making the second attempt Brandon Greene fouled Mansour with three seconds left and his pair of free throws allowed the crowd to finally sigh in relief with the four-point win.

&uot;I knew we were going to pull it out,&uot; said a confident Mansour afterward. &uot;But this was a typical, physical CIAA game, and it feels good to break the streak.

Chowan raises their record to 5-8 and closed out the three-game home stand hosting Mars Hill Monday night.  The Hawks beat the Mountain Lions in a previous meeting earlier in the season, 74-61.