APEX, NC - Fourth-seed Blue Lights College defeated T-5th seed Carolina Christian College 98-94 on Tuesday in the opening round of the New South Athletic Conference men's basketball tournament, held at Hope Community Church Arena.
Prior to tip-off, NSAC commissioner Mike Davis presented All-NSAC awards to forward Wol Yak (first team), point guard Sam Benton Jr and power forward Keyshawn Bryant (second team). Centurions guard Robert Murdock (second team) was also recognized.
Down to just six players with forwards Randy Freeman (personal reasons) and Victor Ngong (season-ending hand injury) unavailable, the Thoroughbreds (9-6 overall) faced a tremendous challenge against a motivated Carolina Christian team, looking to avenge a November 22nd loss to BLC. The Centurions (3-16 overall) had depth and rotated players often so they could press the Thoroughbreds into turnovers. The Thoroughbreds were able to avoid costly mistakes and held a 43-32 halftime lead, thanks in part to a 29-22 rebounding edge, including 13 offensive boards.
Carolina Christian, inspired by a large contingent of traveling fans from Winston-Salem, wiped out the deficit with a 17-5 run to take the lead early in the second half. Despite outscoring BLC 62-55 in the final 20 minutes, the Centurions could not take sustainable advantage of the undermanned Thoroughbreds. The Centurions had no answers for Keyshawn Bryant. The BLC big man scored 17 points in the second half after a 1-9 shooting slump in the first, and made clutch free throws to fend off Carolina Christian.
The Centurions lost their composure often in the second half, getting technical fouls after being visibly frustrated with the officials. The Thoroughbreds scored 17 points from the charity stripe in that time, including six technical free throws off of 14 combined fouls for CCC.
Two Thoroughbreds recorded double-doubles against Carolina Christian. Forward Wol Yak lead all scorers with 30 points while grabbing 14 rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocks. Bryant had a monster game, snatching 18 rebounds to go along with his 19 points. four assists and two blocks. Sam Benton, Jr. scored 26 points (15 in the second half), leading the Herd with five assists and adding three steals of his own. Guard Miigwaanhs Barrientoz added 17 points and five rebounds. Guard/forward Malek Ngong stuffed the stat sheet with six points - including a clutch basket in the final two minutes, eight rebounds, a team-high three blocks and two assists.
With the victory, BLC will travel to the Apprentice Athletic Center in Newport News, Va this Saturday at 4pm to face top-seed, USCAA nationally ranked Apprentice for the third time this season. The Builders (11-0 NSAC) handed the Thoroughbreds their only home defeat on December 6th, 90-74, in a game where Wol Yak was suspended for the first half. BLC dropped an 80-73 decision to the regular season champions in the Thoroughbreds' season opener on November 8th.