Charleston, S.C. (Mar. 1, 2002) -- College of Charleston's Mike Benton blocked a game-winning shot attempt by East Tennessee State's Tiras Wade with 0.8 seconds remaining in overtime to secure a dramatic 76-75 Cougars' victory Friday in the nightcap of the quarterfinal round of the 2002 Mountain Dew Southern Conference Championships before a crowd of 5,859 at the North Charleston Coliseum.
Charleston senior guard Jeff Bolton tallied a career-high 33 points for CofC, which improved to 3-0 in overtime games this season. The point total was the highest by a Cougar since Donnelly McCants poured in 40 against UNC Asheville on Jan. 8, 1990.
"I didn't get a rebound in the overtime and wanted to do something," Benton said of his game-winning block. "I jumped with him and got the block."
Charleston moves on to a Saturday semifinal matchup at 8:30 p.m. with Furman, a 73-70 winner over Georgia Southern. The CofC victory guaranteed that for the first time in league history a team without a first-round bye will advance to the tournament finals.
Leighton Bowie posted 17 points for the Cougars, who improved to 21-8 with the win. East Tennessee State's Wade led four Buccaneeers (18-10) in double figures with 24 points. Jerald Fields added 18 points and 13 rebounds for the Bucs, while Childress finished with 16 and Ryan Lawson had 15.
"In 38 years of coaching, this is one of the hardest and most physical battles that I've been a part of," said College of Charleston Head Coach John Kresse. "East Tennessee State played so hard and so aggressive and is so geared to making every stop of their lives like we do."
Charleston jumped out to a 19-7 lead early on and led by as much as 15 in the first half before ETSU mounted a comeback. The Bucs opened the second half on a 14-2 spurt, grabbing a 45-40 lead on a Fields' three-pointer at the 14:18 mark. They led by as much as five with 2:51 remaining before CofC responded with five straight to knot the game at 62-all with 1:46 left.
Bowie's three-point play gave the Cougars a 66-64 lead with just 1:12 left. The teams swapped possessions before Fields forced overtime on a putback of a Dimeco Childress missed jumper with 1.2 seconds remaining in regulation. The game featured nine lead changes and six ties.
"We came out of nowhere to put this thing together but it just wasn't to be tonight," said Bucs' head coach Ed DeChellis. "We just made some mistakes that young guys make. This is the worst loss that I've had at East Tennessee State. This is the one that hurts the most. I can't really tell you why, but this is a tough one."