NEWPORT NEWS, Va. – No. 23 Salisbury University and No. 5 Christopher Newport University put on a thriller in the 2016 Capital Athletic Conference men's basketball championship game on Saturday afternoon. It was only a free throw with 0.4 seconds showing on the clock out of the hand of CNU's Aaron McFarland that would be the difference giving the Captains the league title with a 68-67 victory.
Salisbury led late in the second half, 54-51, before the Captains got the deficit down to one point with 91 seconds left. Senior Rocky Harris drove the left side and put up a floater that bounced around and dropped through, pushing the Sea Gull lead back to three points.
The Captains would get two back, moments later, on McFarland's jumper, and a foul with 22 seconds left in regulation sent Kevin Regimbal to the line. He hit one free throw to tie the game.
Salisbury (21-6) got a chance for the final shot. Senior Adrien Straughn created a shot for himself, but his fade away came up short, sending the CAC championship game to overtime for just the second time in league history.
It marked the second overtime game between the two teams this season, with the game at Maggs Physical Activities Center going to an extra session on February 3.
Christopher Newport scored the first six points in overtime, with McFarland and Regimbal hitting from outside on consecutive possessions, but the Sea Gulls would not go quietly.
Senior Justin May charged down the middle of the lane, slicing through the Captain defense for two with 2:18 left in the overtime, marking the first Salisbury points of the extra period. May was fouled on the drive, and converted the free throw, cutting the deficit to 62-59.
CNU (26-1) pushed the lead back to six, but May again came through, burying a three-pointer.
It was two buckets in the closing minute that marked the first tie of the overtime period, with Jeter tipping home a May miss with 45 seconds left, and Straughn connecting in the right corner on a contested three with less than 20 seconds left to tie the game at 67-67.
Salisbury was strong from outside again, making 38 percent of its tries from three-point land as Straughn connected on 4-of-6 shots from outside and led the team in scoring with 16 points.
The Captains came back the other way and put together one last push for the title. Marcus Carter missed a contested layup on the right side, and as the ball came off to the left side of the paint, a handful of players went up for the rebound.
Salisbury was called for a foul on the rebound, sending McFarland to the line for two free throws with 0.4 showing on the clock. McFarland knocked down the first for a 68-67 lead, and the second caromed off, into the hands of Straughn, who did not have time to attempt the game-winning heave.
Neither team led by more than six points at any point in the game. With both squads coming in ranked in the top five in the nation defensively, they lived up to those rankings.
Salisbury grabbed the lead early in the first half, going up 7-2, before the CNU defense allowed the home team to put together a 9-0 run. May ended the spurt with a pull-up three from the top of the key with 10:02 left, and the teams stayed within three points for much of the first half.
Senior Kyle Savercool knocked down a three-pointer from the left wing with less than a minute to play and Salisbury held a 27-23 lead at the break.
The Captains tied the game quickly in the second half, one-of-five ties in the second period, but Salisbury pushed the lead to six with 15:03 to go on a Straughn three-pointer. The lead traded hands twice before Salisbury went up 54-51 on a jumper by Gordon Jeter on the right side.
Jeter scored 12 points and pulled down seven rebounds in the contest, playing strong post defense despite playing much of the second half with three fouls. May scored 11, hitting two shots from outside, while a trio of Sea Gulls scored seven.
Regimbal led the way for CNU with 18 points, while Carter and Tim Daly each scored 15. Daly also pulled in 10 rebounds, while McFarland tallied 13 points in the victory.
The Sea Gulls, ranked third in the Middle Atlantic Region in the latest NCAA rankings, now await the announcement of the NCAA tournament field on Monday, February 29 at 12:30 p.m. The selection show will air on NCAA.com.