The GRU Augusta men’s basketball team was one free throw away from advancing to the championship game of the Peach Belt Conference Tournament.
In the tourney, held March 6-9 at Columbus, GRU tipped off against North Georgia in the quarterfinals.
GRU scored a season high in points and set a PBC Tournament record with 35 free throws made on its way to a 99-87 victory in the opening round.
PBC All-Conference first team senior forward KJ Sherrill struck first with a jumper in the first few seconds of the game, and UNG guard Lamar Richardson responded with a 3-pointer.
Both teams continued to exchange the lead for the remainder of the first half.
At the 3:33 mark, a foul by UNG guard Chris Tanzy sent Senior All-Conference honoree Ryan Weems to the free-throw line. The guard sank both foul shots to give GRU its largest lead at 34-29.
GRU would cling to its five-point scoring margin with an assist by forward Roman Hill to Weems for a layup to take the score to 41-36 heading into the locker room.
In the second period, GRU jumped on UNG with a Weems 3-pointer and layup by PBC freshman of the year Keshun Sherrill to stretch its lead to 46-39.
But UNG would not give up that easily.
Less than five minutes went by in the second half before UNG grabbed a one-point lead off of back-to-back layups from forward Brian Cole. And it would be the last time UNG held the scoring advantage.
Less than nine minutes remained in the matchup when GRU began to pull away from UNG. Junior forward Devon Wright-Nelson converted a 3-point play to bring GRU ahead 70-62.
For the rest of the afternoon, GRU continued to attack the basket and make its way to the charity stripe, breaking the PBC tournament record and advancing to the semifinals for a showdown versus Montevallo.
Against UNG, guard Keshun Sherrill paced the team in scoring with 25 points, Weems posted 23, and the older Sherrill brother KJ put up 18 points.
In the semifinals GRU was eliminated by UM in a crushing 96-87 double-overtime loss.
The two teams were neck and neck throughout the matchup. Only 2.1 seconds remained in the second half with the score at 71-69 in favor of UM.
GRU initially had to travel the length of the court on its ensuing possession, but the basketball was accidently deflected out of bounds by a UM defender during the inbound pass and this allowed GRU to get off a shot from their end of the court.
GRU junior guard D’Angelo Boyce had the ball on the team’s sidelines and tossed an alley-oop to senior forward Harold Doby who swished to shot at the buzzer to tie the game and was fouled on the play.
Doby made the trip to the charity strip to win the game and reach the championship round, but missed the free throw as the ball bounced off the back of the iron and forced OT tied 71-all.
However, one overtime period would not be enough to settle this semifinal thriller, and the two programs were forced to play through another extended period.
During the second OT UM pulled away with a little over two minutes left on an 11-2 run to close out the game and move on to the final round.
Weems led GRU in scoring with 23 points, but UM guard and PBC player of the year Troran Brown paced all scorers at 27 points and added 13 assists.
Because of its strong 23-7 overall record and solid performance in the conference tournament GRU’s season is not over yet. The team is scheduled to meet Anderson (S.C.) in the quarterfinals of the southeast regionals March 15 at the Convocation Center in Aiken, S.C., at 7:30 p.m.