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Chowan upsets league leader

MURFREESBORO – This good-bye was a party.

The Chowan University men’s basketball team not only closed out their home regular season schedule with a win – but what a win it was.

Their 72-62 win over St. Augustine’s Monday night at the Helms Center not only gave the Hawks their third win in their last four games, but they also knocked off the top team in the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association standings and the fourth-ranked team in the NCAA Division-II Atlantic Regional.

Not to mention breaking the Falcons’ 12-game win streak. St. Aug’s had not lost since a 57-45 setback at Virginia Union in Richmond on January 9.

“Shock waves through the CIAA,” said a jubilant Jaleel Nelson, who along with fellow-seniors Lando Morrison and Nate Walchuk were playing their final game in the Helms Center.

Nelson was celebrating with jubilant teammates and fans under the basket after the game.

“We’re a system team,” he added. “(When) we shoot free throws, we don’t get turnovers, and we play good defense and our shooters are hitting then that’s a win all day long.”

Nelson, who now has 1,301 points for his four-year career, led all scorers with 25 points, while Mark Brown had 13. Lando Morrison had nine points and eight rebounds, while Nate Walchuk had nine points and five assists.

Chris Jordan led St. Augustine’s with 12 while Nick Chamblee had 10.

Chowan shot 47 percent for the game and made 11-of-20 from beyond the three-point arc. This despite St. Aug’s outrebouding the Hawks, 47-to-29.

The first half opened with the Hawks in their half-court offense and using their passing game to milk the clock before putting up a shot. After a Howard Washam putback in the lane put the Falcons up, 3-2, two minutes into the game Mark Brown followed with his second three-pointer and Chowan never trailed again.

Tied 10-all seven and a half minutes into the game, Chowan went on a 13-2 run over the next four minutes and led 23-12 at the eight-and-a-half minute mark.

St. Aug’s cut the margin to five twice, the last time at 30-25, with under two minutes until halftime before Charles Rhodes nailed a trey to give Chowan a 33-25 lead at the break.

The Falcons, normally an up-tempo team, continued to play at a slower pace opening the second half, but could never get any closer than five points four times in the first four-and-a-half minutes.

Trailing 43-38, Chowan reserve Jerry Fairley got a steal and layup and was fouled on the play. His free throw upped Chowan’s margin to 46-38. The Hawks then scored seven in a row, highlighted by a Nelson dunk and capped by another Fairley bucket to lead by 15, 53-38, with under te10n minutes to play.

As the crowd of over a 1,000 watched with anticipation on every possession, Chowan continued their methodical play, including several back-door plays. They were leading 57-43 when Morrison got inside position and followed up a miss with a dunk.

While the play thrilled the crowd, St. Aug’s third leading scorer Howard Fain went down hard on the floor and laid there for several minutes as the crowd held its breath. He was helped to the bench and later taken to Roanoke-Chowan Hospital as a precaution.

When play resumed, Nelson’s three-pointer as the shot clocked ticked down gave the Hawks their largest lead of the night, 60-45, with five minutes to go. St. Aug’s could never get the lead below double-figures as they missed 11 of their last 17 shot attempts.

Chowan, meanwhile, made 6-of-8 free throws to keep the comfortable margin and were up by eight as the clocked ticked down and got the final thrill of the night as Morrison made his last field goal in Helms a rim-rattling dunk for the final margin of victory.

“They’re obviously a great team with all those wins in a row,” said Walchuk, “so we knew we had to come in, handle the pressure, and just play.”

“This gives us momentum going into the tournament,” said Morrison. “It also means we took care of business instead of counting on other teams to help us out.”

“The win’s all that matters,” added Fairley, who finished with five big points during one Chowan second-half run, “diving after loose balls, getting rebounds, whatever it takes.”

“To win a big one on the road (at Livingstone) Saturday and then come back with this win on Senior Day against an awful good opponent is just terrific,” said coach Jim Tribbett. “It’s something every one of us will always remember.”