History was made Tuesday when the East Carolina Pirates beat the Weber State Wildcats in the finals of the College Insider Tournament, 77-74.
The win marks the first tournament championship in ECU basketball history and will result in the first men’s basketball banner to hang from the empty rafters of Minges Coliseum.
The Wildcats came into last night’s game winning 14 straight home games, losing just once in the Dee Events Center all season. The Pirates were definite underdogs, but delivered with great guard play from Miguel Paul and Maurice Kemp’s ninth straight game with 20-plus points.
The competition was fierce through the first half. Wildcats’ guard Scott Bamforth came out of the gate shooting, knocking down the first six points of the game on two three-pointers. It was the Pirates’ big men that kept them in the game. Ty Armstrong threw down a vicious slam five minutes into the game and hit four one-handed jumpers a few feet outside of the paint in the first half.
After being down six at one point, the Pirates headed into the locker room up seven at the half.
The second half told a similar story, a back-and-fourth affair.
With three minutes remaining, the Pirates found themselves down 71-65, but a clutch three from Maurice Kemp and a momentum-swinging alley-oop by Robert Sampson, assisted by Miguel Paul, gave the Pirates a one-point lead with 38 seconds remaining. Then, a bad foul from Paul put star point guard Davion Berry on the line for two shots.
After sinking the first one, Berry missed the second and gave the Pirates the opportunity for the last shot. With time ticking away, University of Rhode Island transfer Akeem Richmond stepped back and hit a three-pointer as time expired. It dropped, sealing the most significant victory in the history of ECU’s basketball program.
The win moved ECU’s record to 23-13 and dropped Weber State’s record to 30-7.
ECU will join the soon-to-be renamed Big East conference in 2014.