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Looking back on fan-favorite moments from Averett, Covenant men’s basketball games

The Averett University men’s basketball team opens its 2021 regular-season campaign when it takes on Covenant College at 3 p.m. in Brevard, North Carolina …

The Averett University men’s basketball team opens its 2021 regular-season campaign when it takes on Covenant College at 3 p.m. in Brevard, North Carolina.

When I started this article, I had originally just planned on doing a basic shakedown of the numbers and provide a basic shakedown of the numbers and provide a brief summary of how the games between Averett and Covenant have played out over the past two seasons.

However, I didn’t think such an article would fit with the goal of this column, writing through the eyes of a passionate sports fan, so I decided to change gears and focus on the fan-favorite moments from the Cougars and Scots’ matchups over the last few years.

I headed over to Averett’s website to do a little old-fashioned research and found four games, dating back to 2015, that met my requirements. What were my requirements? Glad you asked. Here they are. (1) There had to be one game where fans on either side got false hope their guys were going to come back from a double-digit deficit only to have them lose. (2) There had to be one gut punch moment. After all, loyalty towards a team isn’t tested without a few gut punch moments. (3) There had to be at least one historical moment or one where a postseason game was won. (4) There had to be a moment where the fans got too cocky because their side established a double-digit lead only to see that lead blown.

With that established, let’s get started …

False hope/Gut punch/Fans got too cocky game: Covenant vs. Averett (1/19/19)

Covenant took a 53–40 lead on a pair of free throws from Bailey Spragg with 12:37 remaining in the contest. Any confidence the Scots or their fans had was quickly decimated as Averett answered back with a 19–9 run to trim its deficit down to three with 49 seconds left on T.J. McAllister’s 3-pointer with 49 seconds left. Timothy Henry grabbed a defensive board after a missed Bragg jumper and found Montre’ Cash who launched a potential game-tying 3 that fell short, sealing the 62–59 win for Covenant.

False hope game: Averett vs. Covenant (2/15/17)

Averett entered the second half trailing 39–28. Covenant ballooned its lead to 41–28 on Caleb Haynes’ jumper with 19:59 remaining in the contest. That’s where the Cougars got busy, though, stringing together an 18–9 run that pulled them within two on James Contreras Jr.’s layup in the paint at the 12:28 mark. The Scots responded with a 16–4 run of their own that extended their lead to 11, 64–50, on Will Portlock’s jumper with just over six minutes remaining. Extending the “Basketball Is a Game of Runs” theme, Averett pulled back with a 12–2 run, cutting its deficit down to 65–62 on Contreras’ layup in the paint at the 4:08 mark. However, the Scots’ defense clamped down from there, limiting the Cougars to just one point from there to hang on for the 67–63 victory.

Postseason game won/Fans got too cocky game: Covenant vs. Averett (2/26/2015)

Averett’s USA South Conference Tournament quarterfinal matchup marked newly-hired head coach David Doino’s first postseason appearance at Averett. It looked like at first that it was going to be a disappointing debut for Doino as the Scots jumped on the Cougars early, taking a 28–14 lead on Colton McGriff’s layup in the paint with 6:17 left in the first half. Averett woke up a bit from there, cutting its deficit down to six, 36–30, at the break thanks to Bradley Robinson’s 3-pointer with 41 seconds.

The second half belonged to the Cougars and Robinson as they started the frame on a 10–5 run that knotted the score at 41–41 on Robinson’s 3-pointer with 14:40 left in regulation. The game belonged to Robinson from there as he strung together 12 consecutive points, giving him 15 in a row, to give Averett a 46–44 lead on his 3 with 11:17 left in regulation. It was a back-and-forth battle from there with neither team taking more than an eight-point lead, but the Cougars held on for the 67–61 win and a spot in the semifinals against Maryville College.

Historical moment/False Hope/Too Cocky Game: Averett vs. Covenant (1/20/18)

This game was a doozy for many reasons. One, both Averett and Covenant each held double-digit leads at one in the game with the Scots taking their largest lead, 39–28, on James Mitchell’s 3-pointer with just over a minute left in the first half and the Cougars taking their largest lead, 67–53, on Montre’ Cash’s 3-pointer with 11:03 remaining. However, both teams managed to claw their ways out of their deficits, leading to the false hope/too cocky game classifications.

Second, it earned the historical moment classification thanks to James Contreras Jr. scoring a program-high 42 points and knocking down all 11 of his free throws in overtime that helped Averett hold on for the 103–98 overtime victory. Contreras’ 42 points broke the program-best mark of 41 set by current Tunstall boys basketball coach and former Averett standout DeMarcus on Jan. 20, 1999. Contreras also surpassed his personal best of 40 points, which he set Dec. 9, 2018, at Pfeiffer University. In addition, he became the only Cougar in program history to record multiple 40-point games in a career. His 42 points also shot him into seventh place on the program’s all-time scoring list and his 19 free throws set a program single-game record, breaking the old mark of 18 set by Jonathan Rumley in 2009 against N.C. Wesleyan College.

After Mitchell’s 3-pointer made it a 39–28 game with just over a minute left in the half, Averett closed out the half with six straight points to trim its deficit to 39–34 at the break. Cougars fans got a bit cocky after Cash’s trey gave their guys a 67–53 lead midway through the second half. However, the Scots quieted them, stringing together a 20–6 run to knot the score at 73–73 on Nick Palmer’s 3 with 5:10 left in regulation.

The Cougars extended their lead back to two, 76–74, on Contreras’ free throw with 3:58 on the clock but once again the Scots played spoiler, taking an 80–78 lead on another trey from Mitchell with 12 seconds left. A pair of Contreras free throws knotted the score, sending the game into regulation.

Covenant took an early lead in the opening minutes of overtime on Mitchell’s trey but Contreras answered back with a three-point play (jumper, free throw) to give Averett an 87–85 edge. Timothy Henry extended the Cougars’ advantage to four with a layup but Mitchell’s trey erased that deficit and made it 99–98 with 15 seconds left in the frame.

However, Contreras and Jamal Forde knocked down a pair of free throws in the final seconds, securing the win for Averett.

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