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By Sarah Sue Ingram
Cape Fear Community College beat Brunswick Community College 99-89 Saturday, March 8, to win the National Junior College Athletic Association Division I Region 10 championship and advance to the national junior college basketball tournament.
The Sea Devils will play in Hutchinson, Kansas, starting March 17, while the loss ends the season for the Dolphins.
“It was a hotly contested game with a lot on the line,” said BCC coach Walter Shaw. “We just couldn’t get the ball in the bucket.
“We got the shots we wanted by the people we wanted — from free throws to layups to shorts jumpers. If you can’t hit a shot, you can’t win a game. Somebody’s got to score.
“I thought (hosting the regional tournament) was our advantage. I just thought the ball would go in at home.”
Despite playing on their home court in the Dinah Gore Fitness & Aquatics Center gymnasium, the Dolphins went ice cold in the second half after leading 42-38 at halftime. The Sea Devils took the lead at 46-45 three minutes into the second half and never trailed again, although BCC cut the lead to 66-65 on Montez Loman’s putback with 9:32 left in the game.
But Cape Fear sank 20 free throws in the last 9 minutes and 16 seconds to keep the Dolphins at bay.
“We did a great job of getting back in transition (in the second half),” said Cape Fear coach Ryan Mantlo. “Brunswick is a great team of runs.
“We played a little tight early but we settled down. Any time you have great players, they rise to the occasion.”
Cape Fear led by 16 points at 84-68 with 5:04 left in the game. Three-pointers by BCC’s Mitchell Oates and JacQues Chambers and a putback by Cam Jones cut the lead to seven at 92-85 in the final minute, but the Sea Devils sank seven free throws in the last 45 seconds to seal the win.
Shaw said, “They made a lot of free throws.”
The team that Mantlo said usually shoots 67.5 percent from the line made 32 of 40 free throws for the game. The Cape Fear coach joked that even his wife had commented on his players not making enough free throws.
“Again, you rise to the occasion,” Mantlo said.
BCC made 18 and missed 12 free throws Saturday.
The Dolphins had four players score in double figures: Jones with 21 points, Oates 14, Jerran Foster 12 and Chris Pompey 11.
Anthony Vanhook led Cape Fear with 23 points. J.T. Murphy added 20, Osandai Vaughn 19, Phillip Wallace 17 and Cordea Wilson 10.
“It was eight freshmen growing up into sophomores,” Mantlo said of the difference between his team early in the season and now.
“We’ve been out there (to nationals) twice in the past four years,” he said as he opened a cardboard box of white Region 10 championship T-shirts to pass out to his players.
“It’s going to be fun, but we’re going to have to value every possession.”
Shaw called Mantlo “one heck of a coach” and said they always hope “one of us” goes to nationals.
“There are 181 junior college teams, 24 go to nationals and the rest go home,” Shaw said.
Shaw said he expects BCC to be in the regional title game again next year. The Dolphins have Chris Pompey, JacQues Chambers and Taylor Buffkin coming back, among others.
BCC wrapped up another 20-win season, finishing 20-11.
Cape Fear 38 61—99
Brunswick 42 47—89
Sarah Sue Ingram, a member of the N.C. Sports Hall of Fame Board of Directors, is a sports correspondent for the Beacon.