The Region 10 championship game for the National Junior College Athletic Association Division I menâ€™s teams came down to a battle between the first seed and the last.
Cape Fear Community College was ranked first in the seven-team tournament for North and South Carolina community and technical colleges while Clinton Junior College of Rock Hill, S.C. was the seventh.
The tournament was sponsored by Denmark Technical College in Denmark, S.C. and played at nearby Voorhees College in Denmark.
The March 5 game got off to a strange start as the first basket attempted for the Sea Devils ended with the ball wedged between the hoop and backboard.
The first half quickly became a three-point game for the Sea Devils as they made six three-point baskets out of seven attempts from four players, while only one CJC player â€“ David Brown â€“ made two three-point attempts; scoring on one.
By the end of the first half, the Sea Devils held a 10 point lead with a 36-26 score.
Both teams added to their score in the first two minutes of the second half, raising the score to 40-29. Then CFCC #24 Vernon Payne picked off the ball from a CJC Golden Bear and raced down the court for a slam dunk to put the score at 42-29 three minutes into the second half.
The score would stay frozen at 42-29 for three minutes and 17 seconds as CFCC Jairus King shot and missed two free throws after being fouled. During this scoreless period, CFCC suffered two turnovers and CJC one.
CJC #35, Dwain Edwards, thawed the scoreboard out with two free throws for a 42-31 score.
The Sea Devils maintained its lead and point spread with an odd maneuver from CFCC #22, Tavares Speaks. Speaks guarded the ball as a Golden Bear player closed in defensively over him under the Sea Devil basket. Speaks bounced the ball into the CJC playerâ€™s chest before recovering the ball and from his mistake before sinking a basket to put the score at 44-31 with 11:56 still remaining in the game.
With two minutes and eight seconds remaining in the game, the score was still a low-numbered affair between the two scrappy teams at 57-44 as CFCC still held the lead.
With less than two minutes remaining, both teams created a series of fouls that gave each other point potential in free throws.
However, it mean the Sea Devils maintained its lead, sometimes as much as by a 13-point spread and a little as nine points.
With less than 60 seconds on the clock, CFCC led by 62-52 and 63-52 scores until a final CFCC free throw gave them a 64-52 score and possession of the ball with 23.7 seconds remaining. The Sea Devils played out the clock until the buzzer sounded their victory.
CFCC coach Ryan Mantlo and his Sea Devils will travel to Hutchinson, Kansas fo the NJCAA Division I national championship March 15-19.
Photo and article by Tim K. Hicks, Denmark Technical College