PINEHURST, N.C. -- Sophomore Robert Smith/Hampton scored a game-high 19 points, but No. 3 seed Richard Bland dropped a heartbreaking 96-95 Region 10 Men's Basketball Tournament Championship decision to No. 1 seed Louisburg (N.C.) on Saturday afternoon in Pinehurst, North Carolina. Classmates Tim Bing Jr./Suitland, Maryland and Stanley Taylor/Petersburg added 17 points and 13 points, respectively, for the Statesmen (22-9) against the nationally-ranked No. 4 Hurricanes (28-4), who were led by Jordan Oakley and JD Wade with 18 points each.
Richard Bland and Louisburg have each qualified for the 33rd Annual NJCAA Division II Men's Basketball National Tournament, March 20-24, at Danville Area Community College in Danville, Illinois. Region 10 receives two bids to the National Tournament, and the Hurricanes had already qualified as the regular season champion, while the Statesmen qualified on Friday night by advancing to the tournament championship contest against Louisburg.
Richard Bland fell behind early, trailing 16-8 at 16:27, but the Statesmen rallied and tied it at 16-16 with 14:08 on the first-half clock after a jumper by freshmen Ryan Jones/Smithfield. Louisburg, however, used a 24-11 run to take its largest lead of the game at 40-27 with just under six minutes remaining until halftime. Richard Bland responded as it has all season, putting together a 14-7 run to close within 47-41 at the intermission, getting points from five different players … including four points each from Smith and freshman Kenny Southerland/Richmond.
Louisburg took its largest lead of the second half at 51-41 just two minutes in, but Richard Bland once-again answered, this time with an 18-9 run to close within 60-59 at 14:57 following an offensive rebound put-back basket by Southerland. Sophomore Tre' Patterson/Richmond had five quick points, including a three-point field goal, while classmate Deon Joyner/North Charleston, South Carolina added four points, including a slam dunk. Another offensive rebound basket from Southerland kept it a one-point game at 66-65 with 13:33 left to play, but the Hurricanes used a 25-16 run to match their largest lead of the half at 91-81 with two minutes remaining. The Statesmen, however, refused to go away and battled back yet again, outscoring Louisburg 14-5 over the final 1:53, only to fall just short at the end. Smith had back-to-back three-pointers to start the late rally, and Bing made a three-pointer with one-second left for the final margin.
Richard Bland did miss on two late opportunities to tie the contest over the final 23.9-seconds, missing a free throw while down one at :23.9 and missing a layup in traffic while down two with just under 10-seconds on the clock.
Smith led Richard Bland with his game-high 19 points, adding six rebounds and four steals. Bing and Taylor finished with their 17 points and 13 points, respectively, with Bing making 4-6 three-pointers and Taylor adding a game-high 11 rebounds along with three steals. Southerland contributed 11 points and six rebounds, while Joyner and Jones each finished with eight points … Joyner adding eight rebounds, as well. Sophomore Ricky Hicks/Bronx, New York had a game-high eight assists to go along with three points. Richard Bland shot 39% (32-82) from the field, including 38% (9-24) on three-pointers, and 79% (22-28) at the free throw line.
Oakley and Wade led Louisburg with their respective 18 points, while Lewis Freeman added 16 points and Armoni Lee had 14 points. The Hurricanes shot 58% (34-59) from the field, including 42% (10-24) on three-pointers, and 64% (18-28) at the line.
Richard Bland and Louisburg were playing for the 13th time, and the Hurricanes continue to lead the closely-played rivalry series at 8-5, including two wins in three games this season. The Statesmen won the first meeting this year at home, 99-94 in overtime, while Louisburg won at its place, 75-69, ahead of today's region title contest.
Richard Bland will be making its second-straight and third National Tournament appearance in four years, after winning the 2015 NJCAA Division II National Championship, defeating John Wood (Ill.) 64-53 on March 21, 2015 at the Mary Miller Gymnasium in Danville, Illinois. The Statesmen finished their most memorable storybook 2014-15 campaign with a school-record of 32-4, winning the national title in only their second year back in action following a 20-year hiatus from competitive sports at the College. Richard Bland advanced to the NJCAA Division II Final Four a year ago, as well, completing the 2016-17 season with a record of 30-6.
Complete pairings and the National Tournament bracket will be announced early next week.