NEWS, NOTES &
Wednesday, January 4, 2006
By Bethany Bradsher
Losing with substance keeps
Two wins were enough to produce a healthy dose
of optimism for a few of the fans gathered to watch East Carolina take on
Wake Forest at three Greenville sports bars.
With decisive victories over Limestone and UNC-Wilmington
in their recent memory, Ritchie Hart was one Pirate follower in the hunt for
“I think it’s time,” said Hart, who was watching
from Professor O’Cool’s. “Wake Forest, they almost lost to Richmond, and we
just beat UNCW. I feel like they’re in it.”
Kirby Potter, who pulled his chair up near the
large-screen TV at Tiebreakers, but at a safe distance from the small Wake
Forest contingency across the room, said that he has followed ECU basketball
for nearly two decades and hasn’t seen the Pirates handle the Seahawks as
well as they did Saturday in all of those years.
“You always have hope,” Potter said. “With the
way we’ve played in those last two games. We’ve out-scrapped people.”
But not everyone was swayed as the first half
got underway. At his table at O’Cool’s, Verlin Henderson and his friends at
his table scoffed at the concept of a Cinderella Tuesday.
“We think they’re going to get shellacked,”
Henderson said. “They’re a young team. I think they need about three more
During the first half, there was a feeling that
ECU was just avoiding the inevitable. They stayed within five points, thanks
to outstanding hustle from the ECU guards and the Demon Deacons’ offensive
But it seemed that a run by No. 23 WFU was just
around the corner.
Then halftime arrived — with just a one-point
ECU deficit — and a newly animated visiting team took the floor. East
Carolina seemed to take the ball away from WFU at will, and Demon Deacons
like Justin Gray were struggling to find the basket from any place but the
free throw line.
Midway through the half, with a 47-47 tie, the
Fox Sports broadcasters made their first mention of the word “upset.”
The Pirates enjoyed three leads and seven ties
during the half, and they threw a wet blanket over the Joel Coliseum crowd
with 4:15 remaining, when an ECU steal led to a fast break basket just when
the home fans were starting to sense a momentum shift.
Then Courtney Captain sunk a weighty
three-pointer and the Pirates seemed poised to claim the upset that, for
Pirates, would evoke memories of Marquette in 2004 and a 1999 football
triumph against Miami. The Demon Deacons seemed to have all of the strikes
against them: 21 turnovers, only 16 field goals, big man Eric Williams
missing from the free-throw line and just eight points from Justin Gray.
“The Deacon fans are standing, but not
cheering,” the FOX broadcaster said at this point. “They cannot believe what
they are seeing.”
But two late-game mistakes — a traveling call
and an errant pass from Captain — took the ball out of ECU’s hands, and the
Pirates found themselves without second chances and with a 58-54 heartbreak.
The clichés about the home team sighing in
relief and dodging a bullet were abundantly true. But in the final analysis
it was a loss, not a near-win.
Still, while the harsh
reality was that the trip to Winston-Salem dropped ECU’s record to 5-7, the
intangible effect was that it gave plenty of fans a compelling reason to
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02/23/2007 01:12:41 AM