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J.C. Smith, Winston-Salem State end in 76-76 tie

By Herb White
Correspondent

Brayboy Gym has been the site of memorable basketball since it opened in 1961.

Until Wednesday, a tie had never been played on its floor.

Javan Wells’ off-balance follow-through with .3 seconds remaining pushed Winston-Salem State into a 76-all deadlock with CIAA South rival J.C. Smith. On the ensuing inbounds, the Golden Bulls’ Joshua Linson, who scored a career-best 25 points, heaved the ball downcourt, striking a pair of lights overhead and knocking one fixture away from its mooring above the court. After consulting with J.C. Smith coach Steve Joyner and Winston-Salem State’s Bobby Collins, the game was called by the game officials, citing the risk to players and officials by the dangling light.

“If that hits somebody, that’s a lawsuit waiting to happen,” Joyner said. “We were concerned not only for their players, but our players. We almost went with it, but we thought it was the right call.”

The lack of a winner won’t help Winston-Salem State (15-9-1, 6-2-1), which is a game behind Livingstone for the division lead. Wells’ game-tying basket came after LaMarquis Letchaw hit a pair of free throws with 8.7 seconds remaining to put the Golden Bulls (14-10-1, 3-5-1) ahead 76-74.

“I don’t know whether I want to be disappointed or upset until I see what the outcome is,” Collins said. “We were five minutes from victory.”

That wasn’t a given, considering the back-and-forth over the final five minutes of regulation. J.C. Smith led most of the way, but Winston-Salem State, behind Marquez Jones (21 points) and Preston Ross (20 points) kept up the pressure. The teams exchanged leads seven times before Wells forced the eighth and final tie when he grabbed a rebound and hit bank shot while falling backward.

“What we’ve got to look at is we got a shot but didn’t get a rebound,” Joyner said. “We didn’t get the loose rebound, they did. They were down there by themselves.”

Linson, a guard who has earned more playing time in the past week, had the game of his life, hitting 9-of-13 shots, including 5-of-9 from three-point range. Center Emilio Parks added 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting before fouling out. J.C. Smith shot a sizzling 58.7 percent from the floor (27-of-46), but Winston-Salem State countered by hitting 23-of-31 free throws compared to the Golden Bulls’ 13-of-20.

“I thought the advantage was (with) us, especially when Parks fouled out,” Collins said. “We had our horses still in the game, and I thought we were getting ready to get going and I thought … we were going to take control of it.”

J.C. Smith started strong, roaring off to a 20-11 lead by drilling five three-point shots to open the game, but Winston-Salem State rallied to pull ahead 38-35 at the break. The Rams climbed into contention driving the paint, which led to 13-of-13 free throw attempts compared to the Golden Bulls’ five-of-eight. Ross was especially effective going to the hole with six of his 12 first-half points coming on free throws. Jones added 10 points during that span.

J.C. Smith hit 12-of-22 shots in the first half (54.5 percent) but was hamstrung by 11 turnovers as Winston-Salem State seized the initiative on defense. Linson paced the Golden Bulls in the first half with eight points while Antwan Wilkerson (13 points, 10 rebounds) and Parks each scored seven. J.C. Smith hit 6-of-10 shots beyond the arc, with Linson and LaMarquis Letchaw hitting a pair each.

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