Jordan McCain scored the final seven points of the game, hitting a three-pointer with less than two minutes left to break a 75-75 tie and knocking down four free throws in the final 30 seconds as fourth-seeded University of Mount Olive earned a trip to the Elite Eight with an 82-75 victory over No. 2 seed University of Montevallo in the Championship Game of the 2015 NCAA Division II Southeast Regional Tuesday at Harrogate, Tenn. The Trojans rallied from a 13-point second half deficit, outscoring Montevallo 37-17 over the final 14-plus minutes of the contest.
Mount Olive will face South Central Regional Champion Tarleton State (Texas) in the opening round of the Elite Eight Wednesday, March 25 at Evansville, Ind.
In addition to fans who made the trek to Tennessee, the University of Mount Olive Campus Activities Board also had a viewing party on campus in Southern Bank Auditorium. Students packed inside with drinks and food to cheer the Trojans to victory from home.
Hargrove got Mount Olive (31-3) started with a steal and a fast-break layup. Montevallo (26-8) used two threes to extend an early lead 10-6. Dontrell Brite answered with a three for the Trojans, however the Falcons continued the attack as Shykeem Jackson knocked down back-to-back threes.
The Falcons scored six straight points to give them a 22-13 lead with 11:32 left in the first period. Hargrove stopped the run with a made free throw. The lead grew to 12 after two free throws from Montevallo's Bryant Orange with 9:20. Hargrove brought the lead back under double digits at 28-19 with two made free throws.
Hargrove's free throws started a run for the Trojans. A seven point run was ended by Orange with a three-pointer with 7:06 left and the score went to 31-23. Blount was fouled from beyond the arch and knocked in all three free throws with 5:47. Hargrove sank two more free throws after he was fouled on a defensive rebound and Mount Olive was in the bonus. Reed helped the Trojans run with a three point play on a rebound.
Reed cut the deficit to 36-33 with a lay-up with 3:31 left before half time. Ryan May got fouled on his way to a made three-pointer and converted the free throw to take the score to 43-35. Mount Olive ended the half with five straight points capped off by a Hargrove slam as the buzzer sounded. The Trojans went into the half down 43-39.
Reed scored the first points of the second period for Mount Olive. May drained a three in response for Montevallo. The Falcons' Ibrahim scored on back-to-back possessions and moved the lead to 54-43 with 16:34. With 14:27 Both squads went on a scoring drought for the next two minutes, however the Trojans scored four points in that time period to make the score 58-49. Under twelve minutes to play in regulation, Mount Olive scored five straight and made the score 60-54.
Blount scored the next five points for the Trojans with 8:06 Mount Olive was within five, 68-63. Blount started a 9-0 run to give Mount Olive its' first lead of the game 70-68 with 5:02 left in the second period.
May tied the game with a jumper but Reed gave the lead right back to the Trojans. Blount drained a three-pointer and the Trojans had a 75-71 lead. The Falcons went on to score four unanswered points and tied the game at 75 with 2:13 remaining.
McCain spotted up after a Montevallo timeout and hit a three-pointer from the top of the key and Mount Olive regained the lead 78-75 with 1:47 left in the game. Montevallo missed on three 3-point attempts on its next possession and McCain was fouled with 31.1 seconds left.
McCain hit both free throws to make it a two-possession game and after another defensive stop, sealed the win with two more free throws. The Trojans made one final defensive stop and Brite held the ball up high outside the arc as time expired and Mount Olive claimed its second-ever regional title.
Reed led all scorers with 23 points, while Blount added 19 points, five assists and five boards. McCain rounded out players in double figures with 15.
"I just wanted to do anything to win for my team," said Hargrove. "I wanted me and Jordan (McCain) to go out with a bang. I wanted everyone to remember these two seniors went out with a bang. I just told them we are not going to lose this game tonight."
"I was just doing what coach tells me to do, screening and moving without the ball, doing what my team needed me to do and finish at the rim" said Reed.
"For the last eight minutes we really stepped up and played huge. This is an unbelievably feeling for these guys and our two seniors Kendall and Jordan, for our University, for our community that has been unbelievable for us this year. It's a total team effort and as a coach I could not be prouder to bring this home to Mount Olive."
Higginbotham continued, "I'm not sure what timeout it was - I think the under-eight media - and we came together on the bench and I said if you guys can give the effort that Kendall Hargrove is giving, then we will win this game. Kendall was right, he did anything and everything for us to win and from there on it snowballed for us and that was because of the team. I had nothing to do with that. They fought tooth and nail and never gave up."
"As a coach I could not be any more proud. I'm proud to be from Mount Olive, I am proud to coach these guys and I'm proud to come back tomorrow."
The championship comes exactly 10 years since the Mount Olive men's basketball team last won the Regional Championship and advanced to the Elite Eight in Grand Forks, N.D. Coincidentally, Tarleton State was also in the 2005 Elite Eight, although the two teams did not face each other.
The Mount Olive-Tarleton State game is the first of the four opening round games next Wednesday and tips off at 1 p.m. (Eastern). The game will air live on ncaa.com. The winner advances the next day against the winner of West Regional chapion Azusa Pacific (Calif.) and Atlantic Regional champion Indiana (Pa.). The National Championship game is scheduled for Saturday, March 28, and will air live on CBS.