Montevallo Ends Braves' Historic Season
By Jonathan Bym, Editor
Eight days removed from a loss in the Peach Belt Conference semifinals at the hands of Montevallo, the UNCP men’s basketball team had one of its most successful seasons end in on a loss much like it suffered in the conference tournament.
After recording the first NCAA tournament win in program history, the Braves lost 78-59 to the Falcons after another second-half stint where UNCP went cold on both ends of the court. Much like in the previous loss to Montevallo, UNCP struggled shooting from the floor amassing a 36 percent clip in the game.
“We didn’t shoot it great, but they had a lot to do with it defensively,” UNCP coach Ben Miller. “They just were able to make a few more plays than we did.”
After a Keysheen Hinton layup put UNCP up 37-35, Montevallo used a 19-5 run over the next eight minutes to take a 12-point lead that was never trimmed down to under seven points.
“It all came down to getting stops and they were more aggressive,” junior guard Quamain Rose said.
“They hit big shots and we missed easy shots. It kind of took the wind out of the sail,” senior Griffin Pittman said.
Ryan May scored 15 of his game-high 25 points in the second half.
He scored eight straight points with less than seven minutes remaining to push the Montevallo lead back out to 15 points after UNCP trimmed the lead to 58-51 with 6:35 left.
“He’s struggled at times this year,” Miller said of May. “Today he was able to get it going. He’s a good player, and he’s been a good player for them for four years.”
“I was struggling of late and tonight I was just hitting,” May said. “I’m a shooter, all my teammates were behind me and believe in what I do. I just kept doing what I’ve been doing since I was five, just keep shooting.”
Along with May, Ibrahim Johnson came in and made an immediate impact off the bench after foul trouble in the first half left him with limited action.
Johnson used his size to power past the smaller UNCP front line in the second half for nine points and four rebounds.
“He brings a lot of energy off the bench,” Troran Brown said of Johnson.
Another slow start hampered the Braves in the early going as the Falcons jumped out to an 8-0 lead.
UNCP answered and was able to tie up the contest at 17-all with 9:51 remaining in the first half.
Both teams traded out baskets to close the half going into the intermission tied at 30 apiece.
Brandon Winford had 14 points and seven rebounds, Ben Jacobs had 11 points and eight boards and Brandon Watts had 12 points in the game.
This season, the UNCP men’s basketball team had perhaps one of the greatest seasons in program history, coming one win short of tying the program record of 27.
The Black and Gold were able to get out of the first round of the NCAA tournament for the first time in program history and picked up wins over Division I program UAB and Athletes in Action in exhibition play as well as its first win over Montevallo in the regular season to give Miller his 100th career victory.
“I never would have imagined four years ago that we would have accomplished so many firsts,” Griff “From beating a Division I program, to finally beating Athletes in Action, to co-champs of the PBC East Division, to hosting conference tournament and making it out of the first round of the NCAA tournament, those are goals we talk about before the beginning of the year. So, to see them come into fruition and be a part of it is bittersweet now that it is over, but in time when it’s over you will know that you were a part of something special.”
Pittman, and the rest of the senior class, finished with 79 career victories, which is tied for the most in program history for a single graduating class.
Photo by Jonathan Bym. Senior Ben Jacobs drives to the basket in the opening round of the NCAA tournament.