Hawks down Elizabeth City State
MURFREESBORO – The Gipper got his win, just a couple of days late.
After watching their coach suffer a medical episode on the bench Monday night, Chowan’s men’s basketball team rallied around their stricken coach trying to ‘win one for the Gipper’, and despite playing inspired basketball the Hawks couldn’t pull out a win to spur his recovery.
Coach Dan DeRose was back on the bench Thursday night at the Helms Center and so was the inspired play of his team. he result: an 80-72 win over rival, Elizabeth City State, for their first win this season in the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA).
“The doctor couldn’t have prescribed anything better,” said a beaming DeRose during a post-game interview. “Hopefully this gets us a little confidence and now we can build on this moving forward.”
Shooting a sizzling 60 percent for the game, four Hawk players scored in double-figures, led by Lee Branscome with a career-high 19, including five three-pointers; two of which helped rally the Hawks from 14 points down in the first half.
Quinton McDuffie even dropped a three-point shot. This en route to a 22-point night. Kyree Bethel, back on the court after a medical episode of his own on Monday night, scored 15.
And it would be a double-double for junior Rickey Lamb who tallied 13 points and 13 rebounds.
“We’ve been right there all year,” said the Florida native smiling after the game, “but we hadn’t pulled one out. Tonight we pulled one out.”
“If we protect the ball, we protect home court,” said McDuffie, commenting on just five Chowan turnovers in the second half. “When we shoot the ball well from the outside it opens things up inside for me and Rickey and Chris (Williams).”
Quinton Spady led three ECSU players in double-figure scoring with 15 points.
Lamb hit his first two jump shots for a 4-0 first half Chowan lead, but then Elizabeth City State began to heat up. The Vikings went on an 11-0 run to take an 11-4 lead six minutes-and-15 seconds into the contest.
By the halfway point in the half ECSU had doubled the score, 22-11. Five minutes later the game was looking like a blow-out as the Vikings lead ballooned to 14 points, 32-18.
But teams mount runs, and that’s when Chowan’s began. Branscome, who had come in at the seven-minute mark, scored five straight points: a trey, followed by a short jumper at the top of the free throw circle and then another three-pointer.
Suddenly, the Vikes’ lead was just six points, and it went down to four on a McDuffie layup before ECSU broke the string with a scoring jump shot. The visitors regrouped well enough to push it out to a seven point lead, 39-32, at halftime.
The game was played almost even-up in the first three-and-a-half minutes after the break with Elizabeth City knocking down a pair of free throws for their biggest lead, eight points, of the half, 47-39.
Then something happened.
Chowan didn’t turn the ball over for the rest of the game after five miscues in the first six minutes. Lamb and McDuffie led a comeback that got the deficit down to two points, 47-45.
ECSU pushed it back to a seven-point lead before McDuffie scored in the low post, Bethel drained a driving layup in the lane, and Branscome sank a three from behind the crooked line. That tied the score at 52-all, and ECSU would never lead again.
In all, it would be a 13-0 run as Branscome drained another trey and Chris Williams scored inside for a five-point Chowan lead, 57-52 with ten-and-a-half to play.
It was a four-point lead, 65-61, when McDuffie stepped beyond the arc and drained just his fourth three-pointer of the season. Mark Anthony Buright and Bethel continued the scoring and Chowan led by seven twice more.
Up four with just over a minute to play, the Hawks iced it at the charity stripe, nailing their last six in a row for the eight-point win.
“Big-time players, big-time shots,” grinned Branscome after the game. “Everybody stepped up and contributed.”
“Chowan blistered us tonight,” said disappointed Vikings coach Shawn Walker, “we got pounded on the glass and they shot 60 percent. We’re just not playing very well right now.”
“We put a good game-plan together,” said DeRose, “we picked and chose our spots and executed plays.”
As for the upcoming five-game road trip he added, “I prepared for it with six-in-a-row to open the season so hopefully the experience has prepared us.”
Chowan (7-14, 1-8, CIAA) begins the five-game swing Saturday in Richmond against Virginia Union.