Nigel Grant pulls up for perimeter shot in the Braves 78-67 conference title clinching win over Flagler. Photo by Joshua Reed
The men’s basketball team faced off against the Saints of Flagler College at Lumbee Guaranty Bank Court on Feb. 24 with a second straight conference title on the line.
In the last matchup of the regular season, the Braves not only completed a season sweep of the Saints, they also won their 22nd home game in their last 24 in Pembroke with a score of 78-67 against Flager.
With this victory the Black and Gold not only finished the regular season with a 23-5 record and a 19-3 conference record, but the senior class of Brandon Watts, Nigel Grant, Bryson Hall and Desmond Williams finished their careers as Braves as the most winningest class in program history on senior night.
“It feels great. These guys worked hard going back to even this offseason, I think every one of these guys really improved this offseason,” head coach Ben Miller said. “I know they wanted to comeback and do it again so I’m happy for these guys.”
The two teams kept the contest relatively close in the first half of the opening period and the Saints took what would be their first and only lead of the day, following a pair of free throws within the first six and half minutes.
However, the Braves would quickly find their footing and get into a humming scoring rhythm with a 15-3 run to establish their first double digit lead of the game with a little under nine minutes to go into half. The Black and Gold would go into the locker rooms still riding hot, scoring the last five points to go into the intermission with a 40-28 advantage.
“This is a special group,” Miller said. “I’ve loved every one of them, but this is a special group with their unselfishness, their work ethic and the leadership that these four guys (seniors) provide. For a head coach to have senior leadership and the staff like I do it’s just a lot of fun and I appreciate these guys.”
The visitors would reduce the Braves’ lead to a single digit point margin by scoring the first four points coming out of the locker rooms, but the Black and Gold would respond with 7-0 run that would give them their second double digit lead of the night, which they wouldn’t relinquish again.
Lumberton native, David Strother, cuts down the net for the first time as a Freshman.
Photo by Joshua Reed
The Braves built their largest lead of the day with just over eight minutes left to play when they led by 20, and the offensive onslaught wouldn’t let up until the final two minutes when a few reserve players checked in to the game.
“I’m just happy to have a win on my senior night. I would hate to have gone out on a loss on my senior night especially with a conference championship on the line,” said Watts. “As far as the scoring title and all that, I just play hard and hopefully the results come.”
Redshirt senior Grant lead the team in scoring with a game high 21 points, which marked his seventh time reaching or surpassing the 20-point threshold this season. Junior James Murray-Boyles came in right behind Grant with 20 points and fell just one rebound shy of a double-double with his team-leading nine.
Senior Brandon Watts finished third in scoring with 13 points, and he also corralled six rebounds and added four assists.
“We came out and executed and played freely. Coach told us that they didn’t have nothing to play for after this, so we just went out there and executed and got the win,” Grant said.