Braves Hold Off Flagler To Snap Road Skid
ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – Marcus Heath's old-fashioned 3-point play with 96 seconds left gave visiting UNCP the final lead of the contest, but the Braves needed a clutch defensive stand with four seconds remaining to hold off Flagler, 66-64, on Saturday afternoon at Flagler Gymnasium.
UNCP (7-4, 2-0 PBC) got a game-high 17 points from K.J. Cooper, while Heath and freshman Ben Jacobs each chipped in 16 apiece. The trio combined for 19-of-29 shooting from the floor, including a 7-of-10 clip from Jacobs. The triumph snapped a two-game road losing streak for the Black & Gold who had last tasted a victory away from home against Fayetteville State on November 15.
Flagler (6-5, 0-4) got double-digit scoring from four different players, including Ante Gospic who booked 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting from the field. Chad July and Jarrod Branco each scored 11 points, while Matt Clark added 10 of his own. Flagler has now lost all five matchups with UNCP since the series began in the 2009-10 campaign.
UNCP used a trio of free throws from Cooper to extend a slim halftime lead out to nine points, 45-36, with 15:06 left to play, but Clark's short jumper nearly three minutes later sparked the Saints on a 9-4 run over the next four minutes that helped the hosts climb to within a pair, 54-52, on an Addison Smith free throw at the 8:56 mark. Two free throws by Gospic with 5:43 left gave the Saints their first lead of the second half, 62-61, but control would change hands twice in the next four minutes before Heath gave the Braves the lead for good.
Flagler turned the ball over twice, missed both attempts from the charity stripe and was not able to record a shot from the field in the final 95 seconds. UNCP missed its only shot from the field in the same time frame, turned the ball over once and missed a pair of free throw attempts with three seconds left.
Matt Clark's 3-pointer with 13:04 to play in the first half gave the hosts their first lead of the contest, but UNCP responded with a modest 5-0 scoring spurt to take the momentum back. The final 10 minutes of the opening stanza featured five tie scores and a pair of lead changes, but the visitors got buckets from both Jacobs and Cooper in the final 90 seconds to take a 34-30 advantage into intermission.
UNCP will be back in action again on Monday when the Braves travel to Savannah, Ga., to battle Armstrong Atlantic (4-6, 1-3) in the second half of a women's and men's doubleheader inside Alumni Arena. The Lady Braves will lock horns with the Armstrong women in the front half of the event that is slated to tip off at 5:30 p.m. The Armstrong men dropped a 97-94 decision to visiting Francis Marion on Saturday.