UNCP Wins PBC Men's Basketball Tournament!

UNCP Wins PBC Men's Basketball Tournament!

MORROW, Ga. – The second-seeded and 24th-ranked UNC Pembroke men's basketball team shot better than 56 percent from the field in the second half and took the lead for good on David Strother's 3-pointer with 9:22 left as the Braves claimed their second-straight Peach Belt Conference Tournament championship with a 70-60 win over top-seeded and 25th-ranked Clayton State on Sunday afternoon.
 
The Braves (26-5) became the fourth team in league history to claim back-to-back PBC Tournament crowns, but just the second program to win both the regular season and tournament crowns in consecutive seasons. The setback snapped a 14-game win streak for the Lakers (23-6) who had not tasted defeat since an 85-65 loss in Pembroke on January 20.
 
PBC Tournament MVP Nigel Grant scored 18 of his game-high 26 points in the first half to lead the Black & Gold, while fellow all-tournament team selection Akia Pruitt contributed 17 points, seven boards and one block to the cause. Strother finished out his first championship game appearance with two big 3-pointers down the stretch, while adding five rebounds and a trio of assists.
 
Nathan Powell turned in a team-best 16 points for the Lakers who saw their nine-game home win streak come to an end as well. Aubrey McRae added a dozen points, while Jacarl Owens tallied 10.
 
The lead changed hands seven times in the first 10 minutes of the second half, but Strother's 3-pointer following a turnover by Jaylen Taylor with 9:38 remaining signaled the start of a 10-1 run for the Braves that turned the momentum for good. Clayton State made it a one-possession contest, 57-54, on two free throws by Owen at the 5:14 mark, but Brandon Watts nailed a 3-pointer on the other end of the court and UNCP kept the hosts at arm's length the rest of the way out.
 
The Braves scored 12 of the game's first 14 points to take command early in the first half, but Clayton State clawed all the way back and eventually turned the advantage in their favor on a dunk by Owens with 8-1/2 minutes left before the intermission. The Lakers led by as many as six points in the opening stanza, but it was the Black & Gold that eventually lugged a 35-34 lead into the locker rooms.
 
Having secured the league automatic berth into the NCAA postseason with Sunday's victory, UNCP will gather at an undisclosed location on Sunday evening at 10:30 p.m. when the brackets and pairings for the 2018 NCAA Division II Men's Basketball Tournament are announced at NCAA.com.