Brandon Winford looks to kick the ball to a teammate against Flagler earlier this season (Photo by Stefanie Smith)
The UNCP men’s basketball team led by as much as 22 points but could not stop a second-half comeback by the host Armstrong State Pirates in a heartbreaking 80-83 loss on Feb. 20 at Alumni Arena in Savannah, Ga.
The Braves (15-12, 9-9 PBC) saw their four-game win streak come to a close with the loss, while the Pirates (11-14, 9-9) ended a two-game skid.
Brandon Watts and Alex Bradley tallied 16 points apiece to lead the Black and Gold.
Watts barely missed a double-double with nine rebounds.
Senior guard Herbert Graham registered 20 points and three steals for the Pirates.
A season-long struggle from the free throw line continued to plague UNCP down the stretch, as they posted a 21-of-33 clip from the charity stripe.
The Pirates came out strong and scored eight of the first 10 points to open the contest, but the Braves battled back to tie the game at 10 with 13:38 remaining in the stanza.
Bradley and Watts found a rhythm from the field to ignite a series of runs that gave UNCP a 48-31 lead heading into the locker rooms.
The Black and Gold began the second stanza with an offensive surge capped off by a jumper from Watts that extended the lead to 22 with 17:42 remaining.
The Pirates found a rhythm and answered the early run with one of their own, as they scored 14 of the next 16 points to cut the deficit to 10 with 13:34 to go.
Aided by a series of missed free throws and turnovers from UNCP, the Pirates continued the comeback and narrowed the lead to 73-74 on a 3-pointer by Graham with just under five minutes remaining in the contest.
Armstrong State took a one-point lead on a pair of free throws by Nicholas Scott two minutes later, but Brandon Winford converted a three-point play to put the Black and Gold back on top at 77-75.
The Pirates notched a pair of free throws again at the 2:07 mark to tie the game for the final time.
James Murray-Boyles could not connect on his free throws at the other end, and Scott answered with a 3-pointer that put the Pirates up for good.
The Braves had a chance to send the game into overtime with one second remaining, but Bradley could not get his desperation 3-pointer to fall.
The Black and Gold will next travel to Fracis Marion on Feb. 24.