Demario Beck and Jaylen Shaw couldn’t have ended the final home game at the HTC Center in a more dramatic way.
Coastal Carolina’s only two seniors combined on a game-winning shot with 1.3 seconds remaining in a 72-70 win over South Alabama Saturday afternoon.
Shaw drove the lane, drew Beck’s defender and found Beck on the baseline, and Beck powered through a foul for the game-winner before falling to the court.
“I know every time Shaw drives to the basket he’s looking for me, especially when my guy jumps up to help, I know he’s looking for me most of the time,” Beck said. “I knew what it was.”
“… We wanted to go out with a bang, and thank all the fans for supporting us all year,” Beck said. “It hasn’t hit me yet, but it is [emotional].”
The game-winner is Beck’s second of the season. He also made a layup with a second left in overtime to defeat Texas State on Feb. 1.
Coastal (12-16) improved to 6-9 in the conference, while South Alabama (14-13) fell to 7-7 in conference play.
The game was tight throughout, as neither team led by more than eight points and there were 16 lead changes and seven ties.
The Jaguars broke a tie with 6:15 to play on a layup by Rodrick Sikes and held the lead until 1:15 remained in the game. A Nick Davis 3-pointer as the shot clock was expiring with 2:30 remaining gave the Jaguars a seven-point lead.
The Chants scored the next eight points in just over one minute of game time with the help of full-court trapping pressure to take a 67-66 lead with 1:20 to play.
Beck made a layup and Zac Cuthbertson hit a short jumper, made two free throws and hit another short jumper off a dish from Shaw to give the Chants a one-point lead.
The teams traded points in the final minute. Sikes hit a deep running jumper to put the Jaguars back ahead with 48 seconds left. Artur Labinowicz, who scored a team-high 17 points, drove for a layup with 32 seconds to play for Coastal, Beck was fouled and made one of two free throws after Davis missed a 3-pointer, and Sikes made two of three free throws to tie the game with 8 seconds left after being fouled by Christian Adams on a three-point attempt.
Beck then hit the game-winner.
“The two seniors made the play,” Coastal coach Cliff Ellis said. “What a great way to finish it on senior day, having those two guys make the play, and it was a great play.”
Coastal’s final two home games came down to a final shot. Shaw missed a game-winner at the buzzer Thursday against Troy and Beck made one Saturday.
“Our team just guts it and finds a way to be in these games,” Ellis said. “Sooner or later it will work it’s way out and hopefully come your way.”
Beck finished with 16 points and seven rebounds while Shaw just missed a double-double with nine points, 10 assists and four steals.
Beck played much of the game with four fouls, and forward Cuthbertson and center Josh Coleman also finished the game with four fouls. The Chants were thin up front after losing sophomore forward Amidou Bamba to a right leg injury in the first half.
“I thought it was huge just the way we gutted out this win, losing Bamba and with the bigs being in so much foul trouble,” Ellis said. “We had guards guarding their big men, and we found a way to win. There was so much adversity to overcome in this game, and they did it and that says a lot about their character.”
The Chants received 11 points from 6-3 sophomore guard Tyrell Gumbs-Frater of Ontario, Canada – all in the first half – in 19 minutes. He joined the team late in preseason and has played sparingly this season.
“He just shot it so well in practice. We put him in some games but it just wasn’t enough. We had some guys that have been struggling a little bit lately, and the thing I know is he can shoot it, so I said, ‘Why not?’ … I thought he did a great job.”
Coastal has been streaky since conference play began in late December.
The Chants lost six consecutive games early in the conference schedule, won four straight, and just snapped a three-game losing streak.
Coastal takes to the road for its final three regular season games of the season Thursday at Little Rock, Saturday at Arkansas State and March 3 at Appalachian State. The Sun Belt Conference Tournament at Lakefront Arena in New Orleans begins March 6.
“We’ve got to focus on getting better and getting ready for New Orleans,” Ellis said. “I really don’t mind being on the road these next two weeks. I think it will be great preparation for us to get ready.”