The collection of former HBCU stars competing at the winner-take-all $1 million The Basketball Tournament (TBT) came up just short of making the Elite Eight.
Playing at New York’s famed Rucker Park in that arena’s regional finals Wednesday, HBCUnited was done in by a slew of second-half turnovers in falling 67-63 to Americana for Autism.
The loss and elimination came after the team, coached by Norfolk State head coach Rob Jones and showcased on ESPN, won its first two games. A win would have advanced HBCUnited to Dayton and the national quarterfinals. The team was eliminated after just one game in last year’s tournament.
HBCUnited leads early
Despite leading 23-19 after one quarter and and 37-33 at the half, the HBCU squad could not hold the lead. Converting turnovers and strong play inside allowed AfA to grab its first lead of the game at 45-43 on Nigel Johnson’s 3-pointer with 4:21 left in the third quarter. It was a lead they would not relinquish. AfA led 52-47 after three periods.
HBCUnited cut the lead to two twice in the fourth quarter. They entered the “Elam Ending” down by four, at 59-55 at the 4-minute mark. With the target score set at 67, AfA began the final session with a 7-3 run to lead 66-57. HBCUnited scored the next six points to pull within 66-63.
HBCUnited missed two shots before former Norfolk State guard Devante Carter fouled Ronald March. A free throw by March clinched the win for Americana for Autism. March, who played collegiately at HBCU Philander Smith, was impressive. He finished with 12 points. Delroy James had 14 points to lead AfA. Isaiah Johnson had 11 and Johnson added 10. Former NC A&T big man Femi Olujobi added 7 points.
Former Hampton point guard Jermaine Marrow did all he could to keep HBCUnited in the game. He led his squad with a game-high 22 points making 7 of 15 shots including 2 of 6 from behind the arc. Former Bethune-Cookman guard Brandon Tabb and former Texas Southern forward Jeremy Combs added 10 points.