Pinehurst, NC - Cape Fear men’s basketball fought hard, but came up short in the semi-final of the Region X tournament, losing to Spartanburg Methodist 93-83. Jacque Brown led the team with 22 points, while Trae Bryant scored 21, including 15 in the second half.
It was a tough first half for the Sea Devils, who trailed for most of it. The game was tight in the early minutes, with Spartanburg holding a small advantage. The Pioneers led by as much as eight, but the Sea Devils fought back, eventually tying the game at 18-18 midway through the first half.
Brown carried the team in the first half, scoring 12 points on 5-10 shooting. He struggled from beyond the arc, but found success breaking down defenders on the dribble, and attacking the hoop.
After tying the game, Spartanburg answered, taking a four point lead that held for the next portion of the half, as both teams locked down defensively. Eventually, the Pioneers found their offense again, and pushed their lead to 9, their biggest of the game to that point.
But the Sea Devils hung around by attacking the hoop and getting to the foul line. They dug in, and were able to cut the score to three with under a minute remaining. The Pioneers answered, however, scoring five straight to take a 46-38 lead into halftime.
Things got worse to start the second half, as an injury to Alonzo Tyson forced him out of the game. Depth then became an issue after DeVarte Watson picked up his fourth foul, forcing the Sea Devils to go small and slide Alston Davis into the five spot.
While they were dealt a tough hand with both Tyson and Watson out, head coach Ryan Mantlo knew going into the game they would likely have to go small at some point.
“Going into it, we thought that we’d have to go small, so it didn’t affect us in the way I thought it [would].”
The Pioneers maintained a 12 point lead, but Cape Fear hung around, doing just enough on both ends to prevent the game from getting away from them. Down 67-55, Trae Bryant scored eight straight to get within single digits. It sparked a 10-3 run that pulled them within five. After some back and forth, Bryant converted a traditional three point play, making it 78-74 with four minutes remaining, and on the next possession, he went the length the floor to pull within two.
Mantlo loved that Bryant attacked the basket in the second half, and believes that doing that more often will help him at the next level.
While Bryant’s efforts got them back in the game, their run was stopped from there, as Spartanburg scored on a buzzer beater the next possession down to put them back up a four, a shot Mantlo felt shifted momentum against them.
“I thought we battled, [but] it really took the air out of us when he hit that shot at the buzzer. But give them credit, they’re a very good team, and we just didn’t play for 40 minutes, which has been our M.O. all season.”
The Sea Devils nearly turned it back around on a couple more occasions, but couldn’t complete the comeback, as an eventual 10-2 run from Spartanburg gave them a 10 point lead with a minute remaining.
It was a disappointing loss to end the season, and while they didn’t achieve their goals on the court, coach Mantlo noted that their success extends off the court, stressing the importance of finishing the semester strong.
“Just as I told the guys in the locker room, we come here expecting to win championships, but that’s not the bigger picture. The bigger picture is growing, getting a degree, and moving on, so while we missed an opportunity to win a championship, we will now focus on obtaining [our other goals].”
The loss to Spartanburg ends the season for the Sea Devils. They finished fourth in Region X, with an overall record of 24-8.
Courtesy of Nick Denning