J.C. Smith was eager to seize the moment.
The Golden Bulls wiped out a double-digit lead in the second half and rolled by Virginia Union 89-85 in the first round of the CIAA tournament Tuesday at Time Warner Cable Arena. J.C. Smith (16-11) played with grit to lead late in regulation, then turned resourceful to improve to 4-2 in overtime.
“We’ve been through a lot of adversity this year,” said Golden Bulls forward Emerson Williams, who scored half of his eight points in the extra session. “Like coach (Steve) Joyner says, it’s just five more minutes, a five-minute run. All we’ve got to do is keep fighting.”
Four Golden Bulls scored in double figures, with forward Emilio Parks hitting for a team-best 18 points on 8-for-10 shooting. Guard LaMarquis Letchaw added 15 and backcourt mates Joshua Linson chipped in 11 and Richard Daniels 10 off the bench.
Ray Anderson and Omar Briggs each scored 25 for Virginia Union, but the Panthers struggled at the free throw line, connecting on 16-of-36 compared to J.C. Smith’s 24-of-38.
“We played hard,” Virginia Union coach Luqmann Jaaber said. “We just didn’t cherish the ball.”
J.C. Smith clawed its way into position to win in regulation. After trailing 61-48 with 8 minutes, 42 seconds left, the Golden Bulls ripped off a 22-2 run to go ahead by seven five minutes later.
Virginia Union (6-20), which beat J.C. Smith at Brayboy Gym during the regular season, rallied to force overtime on Ken Pankey’s 3-pointer with 59 seconds left.
“The competitiveness kicked in,” Joyner said. “I think these guys are trying to write their own story.”