West Charlotte had to work extra hard to remain unbeaten.
The Lions survived a nip-and-tuck battle against Harding to edge the Rams 66-65 in double overtime Tuesday at a packed Harding Gym that included Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown in attendance with several other college coaches.
Everyone got 40 minutes of ebb and flow in which both teams seized and missed opportunities to grab an advantage before West Charlotte’s Isaiah Blackmon’s free throw with 16.6 seconds in the second overtime proved decisive.
“Coach (Baronton) Terry told us to just keep attacking, just keep knocking down shots,” said Blackmon, who paced the Lions with 15 points. “If we had held them in the first overtime, it wouldn’t had mattered.”
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West Charlotte (3-0) forced overtime when Blackmon hit two free throws with 1:14 left to tie the score at 57-all, but Harding took the early initiative with a 6-0 run to open the extra session. The Lions responded with six unanswered points, capped by Micheal Boone’s basket with 48 seconds left.
The final overtime was dominated by defense, with Blackmon scoring all three West Charlotte points while Karl Hankton converted Harding’s lone field goal. West Charlotte’s pressure defense threw the Rams (2-1) off-kilter and forced them into disarray.
“It was an excellent game. Both teams played hard, both teams missed big opportunities,” Harding coach Walter Aikens said. “We missed opportunities in the first overtime when we had a six-point lead, and that’s what I look at – a game of missed opportunities.”
Harding guard Eddrico Brown dazzled from 3-point range, leading all scorers with 26 points, including seven 3-pointers to jump-start the Rams’ offense. Harding’s defense packed the lane against West Charlotte’s Simieon Carter, who finished with 12 points, but the Lions compensated with Blackmon and Malik Massey, who scored 13. Ultimately, West Charlotte’s press got to Harding long enough to make a difference in overtime.
“Coach Terry said to pressure them because they have one ball-handler on the team, so if we deny him the ball, then the rest of them don’t want it,” Blackmon said.
West Charlotte—Isaiah Blackmon 15, Malik Massey 13, Simieon Carter 12, Rivers 7, Williams 7, Boone 5, Sanders 4, Knight 2.
Harding—Eddrico Brown 26, Karl Hankton 11, Keenan Rankin 10, McDonald 7, Henry 4, Wilson 4, Colson 2, Talley 1.