Apr 032013
 

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East Carolina coach Jeff Lebo celebrates with his team after they defeated Weber State  in the CIT championship college basketball game Tuesday, April 2, 2013, in Ogden, Utah. East Carolina won 77-74. (AP Photo/Deseret News, Scott G Winterton)

Scott G Winterton

East Carolina coach Jeff Lebo celebrates with his team after they defeated Weber State in the CIT championship college basketball game Tuesday, April 2, 2013, in Ogden, Utah. East Carolina won 77-74. (AP Photo/Deseret News, Scott G Winterton)

“No one’s really been close to them in here. To do it the way we did it was just phenomenal.”

Jeff Lebo

ECU basketball coach

By Tony Castleberry

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

OGDEN, Utah — What better way to end the best East Carolina men’s basketball season ever than with a buzzer-beater to win the school’s first-ever postseason championship?

Akeem Richmond nailed a 3-pointer just before the final buzzer to lead the Pirates to a 77-74 win over Weber State in the title game of the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament on Tuesday in the Dee Events Center. The win pushed ECU’s record to 23-12, equaling the school record for single-season victories and adding to the most the Pirates have won as a Division I club.

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It was only the second shot Richmond made all game, but he will have a hard time hitting a more important one in his career. Like he has done so many times in his stellar two-year Pirate career, ECU senior point guard Miguel Paul, who led all players with 23 points and six assists, penetrated into the lane, drew defenders to him and fired a two-hand overhead pass to a waiting Richmond, who hit nothing but net from right in front of the ECU bench.

“(Paul) actually told me he was going to do that at the 2-minute mark,” said Richmond, a junior who helped send four Pirate seniors — Paul, Maurice Kemp, Shamarr Bowden and Corvonn Gaines — out as winners. “He told me he was going to come to me. I was just being patient. I shoot the ball with a lot of confidence even though I haven’t been shooting the ball (too) well. My dad always taught me to shoot the ball with confidence so, when it left my hands, I knew it was good.”

Kemp, the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, scored 20 points and grabbed six rebounds for ECU. It was the 6-foot-8 senior’s ninth consecutive game with at least 20 points and his fourth straight with exactly 20.

Junior forward Robert Sampson who, like Paul, made the all-tournament first team, added 12 points and a game-high eight boards while Ty Armstrong scored 10, all in the first half.

After the Pirates built a 61-54 cushion on two Paul free throws at the 8:16 mark, Weber (30-7) reeled off an 18-4 run and led 72-68 lead with 2:07 left to play.

At the 21-second mark, Wildcat Davion Berry hit a free throw to tie the game 74-74, setting up Richmond’s shot, that he released a millisecond before the buzzer. After an official review, the 3 stood and East Carolina secured the biggest win in a season full of them.

“We knew it was going to be really, really difficult,” third-year ECU coach Jeff Lebo said, referring to Weber State’s 17-1 home record prior to Tuesday. “No one’s really been close to them in here. To do it the way we did it was just phenomenal.”

Berry’s 3 gave Weber a 31-30 lead with 5:25 left in the first half, but the Pirates went on an 8-0 run capped by a Kemp dunk that made it 38-31 ECU. Kemp’s bucket at the halftime buzzer helped East Carolina maintain a 42-35 lead at the break.

Kemp, who will most likely be playing professional basketball next season, said his final win as a collegian — hardfought, come-from-behind, dramatic — was fitting for a Pirate team that has consistently overcome adversity all season.

“To close my career out like this, I couldn’t ask for anything better,” Kemp said. “(Fighting back) has been a staple of this team. We’ve done it all year. We’d prefer it not to be like that, but…that’s been us. We never give up.”

Scott Bamforth led four Weber players in double-figure scoring with 19 points while Frank Otis and Berry each finished with 16.

Contact Tony Castleberry at tcastleberry@reflector.com, 252-329-9591 or follow @tcastleberrygdr on Twitter.

via The Daily Reflector.

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