Tyrell Kirk turned in a season-high three assists against both Belmont Abbey and Clayton State. PN File Photo/Mykayla Brady.
By Nicole Cook, Reporter
This week saw the UNCP Men’s Basketball team fight it out against two of the NCAA’s qualifying teams in the Division II Southeast Regional. The Braves went into the tournament as the fourth seed in the Regional with a record of 26-3 overall and were matched against fifth-seeded Flagler University.
UNCP would then face the top-seeded and fifth-ranked Division II team in the country, Augusta University. The Braves went on to lose in the semifinals against Augusta but would end the season with the best record in the school’s history, 27-4 topping the ‘90-‘91 Brave’s record of 27-5.
Quarterfinals- Flagler vs. Pembroke, March 12
The Braves traveled to the home of the tournament’s host, Augusta University, in Georgia to compete in the NCAA quarterfinals against twenty fifth-ranked Flagler University on Saturday, March 12.
This match saw yet another impressive comeback from the Braves after falling behind at the half 37-24. The Braves scored first off of Deon Berrien’s 3-pointer in the first minute but things quickly slowed down for Pembroke as Flagler took the lead at the 16 minute mark off a couple steals and fastbreaks to make the score 5-3.
The Braves were working hard to overtake the Lions from that point on and kept right on their heels for the first part of the half. They managed to tie the score 7-7 at the 14 minute mark after Jordan Ratliffe made a couple free throws then stole the ball and passed to Deon Berrien for the layup. However, the Lions answered with a 3-pointer to take the lead and would hold the lead until halftime.
Although they came out after half time down by 13 points, the Braves seemed to use this as motivation for a strong start to the second half. Tyrell Kirk scored first off a 3-pointer in the first minute. From there, Pembroke’s defense managed to put the Lions in a 4-minute scoring drought which they used to tie up the score by the 14th minute.
UNCP took the lead for the first time 46-45 in the 11th minute off a steal from Trenton McIntyre and a layup from Jakari Gallon assisted by Ratliffe. A minute later, Kirk’s 3-pointer would stretch the Braves’ lead to 4 points. The Lions fought back by making a couple steals and layups and another shot from beyond the arc in the 8th minute to make the score 53-51. However, the Braves responded with Javonte Waverly rebounding Flagler’s missed free-throw which allowed Berrien to sink a 3-pointer and put Pembroke back in the lead 54-53 with a little less than 8 minutes left on the clock.
The Brave’s offense followed the attack with a layup from Kirk and a 3-pointer from Ratliffe to keep Pembroke in the lead despite the Lion’s counterattacks at the four minute mark. A series of fouls from Flagler in the last two minutes of the game only increased the Braves lead from there, and allowed UNCP to take the win 74-70.
Jordan Ratliffe and Tyrell Kirk tied as UNCP’s top scorers of the night with 22 points each. Spencer Levi had a game-high 15 rebounds. The team’s overall free throw percentage was 69% at 20-29, and their 3-point percentage was 34.8% at 8-23.
Semifinals- Augusta vs. Pembroke
Having already made UNC Pembroke history with the best record overall, the 2021-22 Men’s Basketball team took to the floor of the Christenberry Fieldhouse in Augusta, Georgia once again, this time to face their toughest opponent yet. At number five in the country, the Augusta Jaguars hosted the tournament as the number one seed. Although they were considered the underdogs, being the fourth-seed and ranked at number 11, the Braves put up quite a fight against the Jaguars, leading at the half 40-34. The Braves’ Nate Dunlop scored first in the half off a rebound of a missed 3-pointer by the Jaguars.
The two teams were neck and neck through the first part of the half with the score being 10-10 at the 5 minute mark. However, the Braves’ fouls allowed Augusta to pull ahead 10-14 just before the halfway mark. The Braves’ offense began to pick it up from this point on and ended up taking the lead after a couple 3-pointers from Javonte Wavarely and Ratliffe as well as a layup from Jakari Gallon.
Midway in the first half, the score was 18-16 in favor of the Braves. The Braves continued to stay ahead until the 4th minute when Augusta scored off a 3-pointer to tie the score 30-30. However, Tyrell Kirk countered and sank a 3-pointer of his own to put the Braves back in the lead. The last 5 minutes of the half saw the Braves work hard to further their victory, and they ended the half on a buzzer-beater from beyond the arc by Ratliffe, putting the Braves ahead by six.
The atmosphere was tense in the second half as the Jaguars came back wanting revenge and started the half with a slam dunk.
After a few free throws and a 3-pointer, the Jaguars overtook Pembroke 53-44 in the first 5 minutes. Still, the Braves weren’t finished yet and managed to put the Jaguars on a scoring drought for 3 minutes and rallied to take the lead in the 7th minute off of free throws and a jumper by Waverly. However, a steal and a layup from Augusta would tie up the score in the 6th minute, and after a series of fouls from the Braves, the Jaguars would pull ahead 66-62.
The last couple minutes of the game were action packed after the Jaguars scored a 3-pointer putting them ahead 71-66 and UNCP countered with a fast break from Kirk and ended up tying the score 71-71 with just a minute and a half left on the clock. However, the Jaguars came back with a layup, then scored their final 9 points of the game off of free throws, making the final score 82-76 with Augusta coming out on top.
Tyrell Kirk led the Braves in scoring with 18 points and 3 steals. Spencer Levi had a team-high 10 rebounds and Deon Berrien had a team-high 3 assists. The Braves boasted a 73.9% from the free throw-line at 15-19.
The UNCP Men’s Basketball team’s season has come to a bittersweet end having made school history with their 27-4 record and being named the regular season champions of the 2021-22 season.