NEW YORK – The Charlotte 49ers submitted their share of March Madness and defeated the Richmond Spiders, 68-63, in bizarre fashion to advance to the quarterfinals of the 2013 Atlantic 10 (A-10) Tournament at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Trailing by three points with just over four seconds to play, Pierria Henry made the first of two free throws to cut the Richmond lead to two. After the ball went in, Richmond’s Derrick Williams was called for a dead ball technical foul after shoving Willie Clayton to the ground on the baseline.
“I didn’t see what happened,” Henry said of the play. “I was just trying to focus on my free throw, made it, and then I saw Willie go flying. I let the refs handle the rest.”
The technical gave Charlotte two more free throws on top of the one remaining. Henry made all four to give the 49ers a one-point lead.
It was only the beginning of Richmond’s meltdown.
With Charlotte retaining possession after the technical, Henry was fouled at mid-court but fired the ball towards the hoop, earning him a three-shot shooting foul with just under three seconds remaining.
Disgusted by the call, Richmond Head Coach Chris Mooney lost his composure. By extensively complaining to the officials, Mooney was ejected and Richmond received two team technical fouls which gave Charlotte four more free throws.
“It’s a pretty devastating loss,” Mooney said after the game. “I feel bad for our players and our fans, I thought we put ourselves in a chance to win the game. Obviously I wish the ending hadn’t been the way it was, but I wish Charlotte luck in the next round.”
Henry made eight of his 11 free throws in the final four seconds to give Charlotte a five-point victory.
“This is one of the hardest fought wins I’ve ever been a part of,” Charlotte Head Coach Alan Major said. “You couldn’t make that up if you wanted to make a movie. We just talk to our guys about always making sure they keep their poise. Right or wrong, that’s not our place.”
The game began with the Spiders coming out on fire and jumping out to an early 8-2 advantage. Major was forced to call an early timeout to let his team regroup. “I didn’t think they would miss a shot all night the way they started,” he said after the game. “I’m just really proud of the way this team bounced back.”
The 49ers went into halftime down by eight points and had committed seven turnovers.
The second half was a different story for both teams. Charlotte cut down on turnovers and began to win the battle in the low-post. Richmond got cold and only managed to make 27.8 percent of their field goal attempts in the last 20 minutes.
Once Charlotte extinguished Richmond’s lead early in the second half, the game was a hard-fought, scrappy, nail-biter the rest of the way. There were seven ties and five lead changes in the second half alone.
Staying true to the formula that has shown them success all season, the 49ers completely dominated the front court.
Charlotte out-rebounded Richmond, 43-22, and out-scored them in the paint (44-16). The 49ers recorded more offensive rebounds (19) than the Spiders did defensive (14). Charlotte’s efforts on the offensive glass earned them a 21-3 advantage in second chance points.
Richmond, a characteristically good shooting team, only managed to sink 37.8 percent of their attempts. The Spiders only made a third of their three-point attempts (7-21). Charlotte failed to connect on a three-pointer but only attempted five.
Henry put in a brilliant performance in Thursday’s game. The sophomore scored a career-high 28 points including the eight free throws at the end of the game to lock up the victory. Henry added a career-high 12 rebounds to complete his third consecutive double-double and fourth on the season.
Clayton also recorded a career-high in points with 18. Chris Braswell didn’t score and failed to record a rebound in the first half, but the senior came alive in the second, scored 12 points and pulled down five rebounds (all offensive).
“My teammates talked to me and my coaches talked to me about staying in the game,” Braswell said. “I’m really proud of the way this team played today.”
Richmond guard Darien Brothers scored a career-high 43 points against the 49ers when the two teams last met in January. This time around, troubled by an injured hand and an aggressive Charlotte defensive scheme, the senior only scored 10 points and shot 2-9 from the field.
Cedrick Lindsay led the way for the Spiders in scoring with 19, including 7-7 from the charity stripe. Freshman Terry Allen came off the bench, contributed 14 points and led the Spiders in rebounding with 9 boards.
Williams was perfect from the field (3-3) and scored 13 points for Richmond, but the junior’s performance will be overshadowed by his technical foul on Clayton in the final seconds.
The Richmond Spiders will await their post-season destination which will be announced later in the week.
Charlotte will advance to the A-10 Tournament quarterfinals where the top-seeded Saint Louis Billikins await. Saint Louis defeated Charlotte, 76-58, in their only regular season match-up last month. Tip-off is scheduled for noon on Friday at the Barclays Center.