On Saturday night, the ever depleting assemblage of basketball players known as the Charlotte 49ers(9-12) fell to the La Salle Explorers(11-11) in a double overtime heart breaker, despite having chances to secure the win late in regulation and the first overtime. Five Charlotte players reached double figures, led by KJ Sherrill’s head turning 24 point, 13 rebound double-double(career highs in both) off the bench. It wasn’t enough though as Cole Stefan buried a long range elbow 3-pointer with 7.8 seconds left in the first overtime to extend the game to a second overtime, in which the Niners would fall.
This game started off in favor of the home team, the Niners opened up a 12-12 tie at 13:24 to play with a 7-0 run, extending their lead to ten at one point, before going into the locker room at halftime with a 35-28 lead. The surge of first half points was lead by Javarris Barnett’s 16; Barnett scored Charlotte’s first seven points, and went four of six from beyond the arc in the first half. Barnett was able to knock in a 3-pointer at the start of the 2nd half for his 19th point, one short of his career high, before going cold and failing to score any more points.
Chris Braswell faced a tough task, as he was put in charge of defending Aaric Murray, who drew NBA scouts into Halton Arena. Braswell was able to pull down eight offensive rebounds, 11 total, but he lacked an offensive touch, going only 2 of 9 from the field, including a lot of just plain weird looking shots that just had no chance. With Charlotte up 48-41 Braswell collected his third and fourth foul four seconds a part with just over 12 minutes left to play, this quick change of circumstances began the swing of momentum in La Salle’s favor.
Braswell would stay on the bench for the next seven minutes until An’Juan Wilderness fouled out, having recorded 11 points in 18 minutes. From this point on KJ Sherrill was the main option inside. Sherrill went 5 of 8 from the field, and was able to get himself to the line 18 times, knocking in 14(his free throws alone would have set a new career high). With Braswell on the bench, or on the court limited with the burden of four fouls, La Salle was able to slowly whittle down Charlotte’s lead, tying it at 71 with a Ruben Guillandeaux lay-up with 21 seconds left. Charlotte had a chance to win it with time expiring as Derrio Green, who finished the night 2 of 15 from the field, put up a contested mid-range jumper.
In the first overtime La Salle shot out to a four point lead before Charlotte used most of the remaining 3:54 to go on a 7-0 run, taking a 78-75 lead. Braswell’s 5th and final foul led to the Explorers first two points in the period. The lack of depth caught up to Charlotte fast, of the five players to reach double digits, four of them were on the court for 38 minutes or more. In contrast only one La Salle player saw more than 36 minutes on the court, Tyreek Duren, who saw 44 minutes of action. With the extended minutes, free throw shooting suffered as Charlotte was only able to sink 50% of their attempts in the extra periods. The most untimely of the many misses was by Sherrill with 11 seconds left(although it would be unfair to hang the loss on that one miss), leaving the Niners lead at three.
“Even with the free throw shooting if we defend a little bit better — If we go down and get some stops,” Major said, “There’s a toughness level you want to have to take the confidence away from (the opponent).”
Up to that point Charlotte had held La Salle to 2 of 19 from behind the arc, but Cole Stefan found himself open before drilling a long range bomb that tied it. With time expiring, the 49ers once again ran the ball through Derrio, who’s shot came up short.
“He’s a specialist.That’s what he does,”Coach Major had to say of Stefan, who opend the second half with another 3-pointer, “They made four and he made three of them, including a couple big ones.”
The loss was not easy for the Niners, who’s lack of depth will continue to hold them back. Signs of improvement are showing themselves in each game, but at this point
“It’s very frustrating. We know the work we put in in practice. Competing and hustling,” Javarris Barnett said, also adding, “But I’m a firm believer. We got better from Duquesne to Temple and from Temple to La Salle.”
The 49ers have a tough task at hand on Wednesday when the welcome in Xavier, a team fresh off a 23 point at Richmond. The Niners will then host George Washington on Saturday, continuing a series of what always end up being toughly fought contests.