CONWAY — If the final shot had fallen for Coastal Carolina on Wednesday night, it would have been all too fitting.
Sophomore forward Badou Diagne had continued his emergence with the best game of his season, and sure enough he found the ball in his hands behind the arc in the final moments with his team trailing by three and a chance to play hero for the evening.
But that wasnt how this one would end.
After a grueling 40-minute duel with High Point in what might just have been the most entertaining game of the season, Coastals recent hot streak met a tough setback as Diagnes shot missed and the visiting Panthers held on for a 77-74 win before a crowd of 2,639 at The HTC Center.
It was just the second loss in the last eight games for the Chanticleers (13-10, 6-3 Big South), who drop into a tie with UNC Asheville atop the conferences South Division standings.
Typical of the way Big South games have been throughout the year. Give credit to High Point. Very good basketball team, Coastal coach Cliff Ellis said. The game could have gone either way, there were so many [key] possessions.
Diagne was excellent for Coastal with 21 points on 9-of-12 shooting and a team-best nine rebounds while playing 31 minutes.
He had put the Chants up 74-73 on a strong putback basket with 39 seconds left, and High Point (10-12, 6-3) then turned the ball right back over with an offensive foul as the crowd reached its loudest level of the game.
But it quickly unraveled for Coastal. Coming out of a timeout with 35.4 seconds left the Chants were pressed aggressively by the Panthers, and freshman guard Elijah Wilson eventually found himself trapped in the corner with nowhere to go and time ticking quickly. He finally tried to pass the ball out, but High Points Devante Wallace stole the pass and turned it into a game-changing layup for a 75-74 lead with 27.1 seconds left.
I made a mistake, Wilson said. I really should have just called timeout. It was just a mental lapse. Me and the rest of the team just need to learn from it.
Said Ellis: I think thats a little bit of [in]experience showing up.
Wilson, who finished with 16 points, then missed a quick 3-pointer from the right corner and High Point grabbed the rebound with 11.5 remaining while drawing an immediate foul. Haiishen McIntyre knocked down both free throws to make it a three-point game, and Coastal pushed the ball across halfcourt before calling timeout with 8.3 on the clock.
The final play didnt go quite as planned, though, as junior guard Warren Gillis (15 points, six assists) inbounded to junior point guard Josh Cameron, who eventually got it to Diagne near the top of the arc. And with time running down, Diagne -- who had already hit two 3s in the game -- tossed up the final shot.
Actually the play was set up for the three-man if he was open and he wasnt open, so I just took the shot because I was open too, Diagne explained.
We wanted to try to get Badou or Elijah a shot, Ellis said. We actually didnt come off the screen. We didnt execute it. Josh, we needed him to use the ball screen and he didnt use it, and it just was not there. ... We got a look. It just didnt go.
John Brown finished with 19 points and seven rebounds to lead High Point, which stays tied with VMI atop the North Division.
Contact RYAN YOUNG at 626-0318, or follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/RyanYoungTSN.