App State outlasts NC Central 79-75 in overtime


Courtesy of App State Athletics

Sophomore guard Terrance Harcum powers into the paint against NC Central Nov. 10, 2022.

James Parker, Reporter

Fresh off of setting a new school record for single-game points, the Mountaineers defeated the North Carolina Central Eagles 79-75 in overtime Thursday night. 

Graduate guard Tyree Boykin led the way for the Black and Gold with seven points in overtime and 20 points in the game. Senior forward Donovan Gregory also put up 12 points, six rebounds and five assists.

“I’m really proud of our team,” head coach Dustin Kerns said. “We made some tough plays down the stretch on both ends.”

Both teams started the game with tight defense, allowing each other just three points each in the first three minutes of play. A 7-0 Mountaineer run secured a slight lead until the Eagles went on their own 14-3 run, taking a six-point lead with eight minutes remaining in the first half.

While the Black and Gold could not find an offensive rhythm for the rest of the first half, knocking down just 29% of their shots, their smothering defense kept the game close and they finished the first half down 33-28.

The second half began with Gregory firing on all cylinders, scoring eight of the Mountaineers’ first 11 points of the half, but the Eagles tightened up their defense and increased the lead to eight with 11:16 left to play. 

Both squads fought to establish a lead until sophomore guard Terence Harcum powered through traffic to get to the rim and lay it up. Several consecutive stops on the defensive end allowed for Gregory and Boykin to score a basket apiece while forcing the Eagles to miss on the other end. This 9-0 run was capped off by a three-pointer by Harcum that tied the game at 54-54 with 5:57 left in the second half. Although North Carolina Central broke the tie on the next possession and gained a three-point lead, freshman forward Justin Abson threw down a two-handed slam in transition after a no-look pass from Gregory. 

With 4:13 left to play, Gregory ripped the ball away from the Eagles and found Harcum on the fastbreak for a layup, which gave the Mountaineers a 58-57 lead, their first lead since early in the first half. Solid offensive consistency for the rest of regulation resulted in a 64-61 Mountaineer lead with just over one minute left in the game. 

North Carolina Central got defensive stops on the next two offensive possessions by the Black and Gold before calling a timeout with 16 seconds left in the game, enough time to get off a single three-pointer in the hopes of tying the game and forcing overtime. 

Justin Wright, who led the Eagles in scoring with 17 points, received the ball at the top of the key with the clock winding down. Despite Harcum playing intense defense for the entire possession, Wright hit a deep step-back three-pointer at the buzzer to tie the game and force overtime.

With an extra five minutes of play time back on the clock, the App State offense became lethal. A big three-pointer from Boykin gave the Black and Gold a three-point edge before the Eagles answered with their own layup to make it a one-point game.Junior forward CJ Huntley then knocked down a three-pointer to make it a 70-66 lead with 3:42 left in overtime.

The Eagles came up empty on their next possession and Boykin knocked down another jumpshot with 3:02 left to play, causing the 2,145 fans in attendance to erupt in ovation. After a three from Wright to cut the App State lead back to three, Huntley knocked down his second three-pointer of overtime to push the lead back to six.

As the Eagles tried to get some points on the board, Abson swatted Wright’s layup out of bounds before blocking a three-pointer the following possession before being called for a shooting foul with 1:33 left in the game.

Abson, who had a game-high five blocks along with eight rebounds, received high praise from Kerns for his performance.

“He’s earned that,” Kerns said. “That wasn’t a fluke, he’s just a good player.”

After the two successful free throws, the Eagles were forced to foul App State on three consecutive possessions, leading to clutch free throws from Boykin, Huntley and junior guard Xavion Brown sealing the win for the Mountaineers. 

Although they shot just 41% from the floor, the Mountaineers had four players finish with double-digit points.

“We’ve got a lot of options, and I think that’s part of our strength right now,” Kerns said.

Boykin and Huntley led the Black and Gold in overtime, scoring seven points apiece. Boykin, who transferred to the High Country during the offseason, was the facilitator of the Mountaineer offense in clutch time.

“It was a lot of fun,” Boykin said. “It’s something that’s not always common, and I really appreciate it.”

The Mountaineers continue their season against the Louisville Cardinals in Louisville, Kentucky Tuesday at 6 p.m.