Apr 042013
 

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The Daily Reflector

/ The Daily Reflector  ECU coach Jeff Lebo. (Rhett Butler)

“I was praying the whole time it was in the air.”


ECU’s Maurice Kemp

On teammate’s game-winning shot

By Tony Castleberry

Thursday, April 4, 2013

OGDEN, Utah — East Carolina men’s basketball coach Jeff Lebo briefly mentioned Weber State’s dominance at home following ECU’s thrilling CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament victory on Tuesday, but a closer look at Weber’s schedule makes the Pirates’ win seem even more improbable.

Not only were the Wildcats 17-1 at the Dee Events Center heading into Tuesday’s championship game, but they had won all but two of those 17 by at least 10 points. Only Brigham Young, which lost to Baylor in the semifinals of the NIT on the same night the Pirates (23-12) won the CIT, had beaten the Wildcats in Ogden before ECU did the deed when Akeem Richmond’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer gave the Pirates a 77-74 victory.

“I can’t even describe it really right now,” Lebo said as ECU players cut down the net following the first nonconference postseason title in program history. “To end it with the last shot, no time on the clock is something that may not ever happen to me again. I’ll never forget it and I’m so excited for this group.”

A man of vision

Richmond’s shot never happens without senior point guard Miguel Paul, who ended his brilliant ECU career by leading all players with 23 points and six assists, dragging Wildcat defenders with him into the lane before kicking the ball out to Richmond in front of the Pirates’ bench.

That play was a microcosm of Paul’s two seasons at ECU. The Winter Haven, Fla., native who — like fellow senior Maurice Kemp — will probably play professionally next season, continuously put his body in harm’s way against bigger defenders and either found his own shot or created opportunities for his teammates.

“Players tend to turn their head and look at the ball (on defense),” Paul said. “That’s what (Richmond’s) man did, and he made a mistake.”

Now, Paul can call two of the biggest assists during East Carolina’s best season ever his own. On Jan. 12, he also passed the ball to senior Corvonn Gaines, who knocked down a game-winning 3 in overtime against Central Florida in Greenville.

Familial feel

This group of Pirates was a tightknit bunch, with players routinely referring to their teammates and coaches as brothers and family.

Kemp, who had one of the best seasons in ECU hoops history and won tournament Most Valuable Player honors, was quick to share his joy with his fellow Pirates following the win over Weber.

“With my family right here, my brothers, my coaches, I mean, I love these guys,” said Kemp, who finished the season leading the team in scoring (18.9 points per game) and steals (1.7 spg) while also pulling down 8.0 rebounds per game. “I’m so proud of my teammates. I love every last one of them.”

While the season would have been a success even if the Pirates had not won the CIT final, Kemp admitted to feeling great relief when Richmond’s shot found nothing but net.

“Thank God,” Kemp said, referring to the first thing he said after seeing the 3 from Richmond, a junior who had struggled with his shot the previous three games. “I was praying the whole time it was in the air. I’m so glad Keem knocked it down. He’s done it all year.”

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

via The Daily Reflector.

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