Jordan McCain's three-pointer tied the game with 9.4 seconds left, but a backcourt foul with 2.5 seconds remaining led to the game-winning free throws as top-seeded and nationally ninth-ranked University of Mount Olive fell to No. 3 seed North Greenville University 68-66 in the Championship Game of the 2015 Conference Carolinas Men's Basketball Tournament Sunday at Kornegay Arena. With the win, North Greenville earns an automatic bid to the NCAA Division II Southeast Regional.
The loss - UMO's first since January 3 - snapped Mount Olive's school record 17-game winning streak and may have hurt the Trojans' chances of hosting the regional. Mount Olive, which was ranked No. 3 in the final regular season Southeast Region poll, is still expected to earn an at-large bid to the regional.
McCain and Mike Moore represented the Trojans on the All-Tournament Team.
Mount Olive (28-3) trailed by six points with just over four minutes remaining before Moore knocked down a pair of three-pointers to tie the game 60-60 with 2:49 left in the contest. North Greenville (22-9) missed a shot just before the shot clock expired, but LaShawn Alexander's putback put the Crusaders back on top with 2:09 remaining.
The Trojans regained the lead 63-62 on Dontrell Brite's three-pointer with 1:39 left and had a chance to add to the lead after JaQuan Blount's steal in the backcourt. The Trojans drew a shooting foul, but missed both free throw attempts.
Offensive rebounding gave the North Greenville back the lead as Phillip Brown's putback on a missed tip attempt gave the Crusaders a 64-63 advantage with 49 seconds left. Mount Olive turned the ball over on its next possession and Spencer Reaves hit a pair of free throws to give North Greenville a three-point lead with 24.9 seconds left.
After a Mount Olive timeout, the Trojans worked the ball around the perimeter and McCain hit from the right wing to tie the game. Reaves brought the ball up court for North Greenville and drew contact to get back to the free throw line. Reaves, who finished the day 10-for-10 from the line, hit both free throws to put the Crusaders back on top.
Mount Olive called a timeout after the second free throw and North Greenville followed with a timeout just before the Trojans were going to inbound the ball. The Crusaders denied a long pass and Mount Olive was forced to call another timeout with 1.9 seconds left after an inbounds pass deep in the backcourt. The Trojans inbounded the ball from the sideline and got the pass across midcourt, but a desperation 40-foot attempt was short.
In the first half, Mount Olive jumped out to a 10-2 lead as Brite and McCain both connected on three-pointers. North Greenville took its first lead of the game with 10 unanswered points, capped by back-to-back three-pointers by Reaves. The deficit marked the first time Mount Olive trailed in the tournament.
North Greenville took its biggest lead of the half at 21-16 after a three-pointer by Micah Parker with 8:48 left before halftime. The Trojans came back to tie the game after Moore's steal and uncontested one-handed dunk and regained the lead at 30-28 on a layup by Moore with 3:51 remaining.
Mount Olive held a 33-32 lead after the two teams traded a series of free throws. North Greenville went back on top on Alexander's 10-foot jumper with 1:16 remaining. The Trojans had a chance to play for the last shot, but turned the ball over and committed a foul. Troy Blyden hit 1-of-2 free throws to give the Crusaders a 35-33 halftime lead over the Trojans.
The game saw three ties in the opening six minutes of the second half before McCain's layup with 13:48 remaining broke a 43-43 tie and gave Mount Olive its first lead of the second half. After a North Greenville free throw, Kendall Hargrove's two-handed slam dunk down the left baseline gave the Trojans a three-point lead and brought the Kornegay Arena crowd to its feet.
North Greenville briefly quieted the crowd as Korval McElroy tied the game 49-49 with a three-pointer from the right corner with 11:03 left. McCain answered with a three-pointer for Mount Olive, but after Brown blocked a pair of Trojan shots, Reaves hit a three-pointer with 8:22 remaining to put the Crusaders back on top 54-52.
McCain tied the game with a pair of free throws, but Reaves broke the tie with an off-balance 15-foot hook shot from the right of the lane. Reaves, the Conference Carolinas Men's Basketball Freshman of the Year, capped a 6-0 run with a pair of free throws to give North Greenville a 60-54 lead with 4:24 remaining.
McCain finished with 22 points and five assists, while Moore added 16 points on 7-for-7 shooting. Brite finished with 12 points and two assist to give him 175 assists for the season, breaking the record of 174 set by Derek Staton in 2009-10.
Mount Olive was 11-for-15 from the free throw line, compared to 21-for-27 for North Greenville.
Reaves led all scorers with 23 points for North Greenville, while Parker added 17 points. Parker was named tournament Most Valuable Player. Alexander recorded a double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds and Brown had five blocked shots. Alexander and Brown joined Parker on the All-Tournament Team.
Rounding out the All-Tournament Team were A.J. Clark of Pfeiffer and Logan Lyle of King.
Mount Olive is seeking its seventh NCAA Tournament appearance and first since 2010. North Greenville, which had not advanced past the first round of the Conference Carolinas Men's Basketball Tournament since joining the conference in 2011-12, is making its first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance.