The $1 million dream ended in heartbreaking fashion for the Bucketneers.
Marcus Keene made a deep 3-point basket as Sideline Cancer knocked off the team of East Tennessee State alumni 58-57 in The Basketball Tournament on Wednesday night at the Charleston Coliseum.
Sideline Cancer was the top seed in the West Virginia regional and the team that lost in the championship game last year. The Bucketneers, seeded 12th, had beaten the No. 4 and No. 5 teams before Wednesday.
Keene’s dramatic shot ended the game in a way TBT wants games to finish.
The Elam Ending, used by TBT, is a way to end games without the fouling that often comes in the closing minutes. After the first whistle inside the four-minute mark in the fourth quarter, the game clock is turned off and a target score is established. The goal is eight points more than the leading team has at the time.
The first team to that target number wins.
When a whistle came with 3:58 left, the Bucketneers were up 50-49, so the first team to 58 would win.
Desonta Bradford’s deep 3-pointer put the Bucketneers up 55-52. After Eric Thompson made a free throw, Bradford made a layup for a 57-53 lead
Trey Lewis scored for Sideline Cancer to make it 57-55, leaving the Bucketneers in need of one point to win.
Bradford missed a game-winning shot on a drive and Justin Tuoyo’s tip-in bounced off the rim. When Keene got the ball, he dribbled a couple of times and connected on a long 3-pointer to end the game.
The 5-foot-9 Keene played at Central Michigan, where he led the country in scoring during the 2016-17 season, averaging 30.0 points per game.
Sideline Cancer will play in the quarterfinals in TBT Championship Week at Dayton, Ohio. Their opponent will be the winner of Wednesday’s late game between Team 23 and Best Virginia. That matchup will be July 31 and televised by ESPN2.
Jamel Artis, a former All-Atlantic Conference player at Pittsburgh, led Sideline Cancer with 19 points. Keene, his team’s leading scorer coming in, finished with 13.
Bradford led the Bucketneers with 16 points and nine rebounds, including scoring seven during the Elam Ending. Courtney Pigram had 12 points and Tuoyo had 10.
Tray Boyd, who came into the game shooting 80% on 3-pointers, did not attempt a shot and only played seven minutes.
Sideline Cancer was ahead 13-8 when Pigram swished a step-back 3-pointer at the first-quarter buzzer to make it 13-11. It started a 10-0 Bucketneers run that left them up 18-13 early in the second quarter.
TJ Cromer had scored seven of the Bucketneers’ first eight points and finished with nine.
Sideline Cancer came back and led 28-27 before Tuoyo’s tip-in at the halftime buzzer put the Bucketneers up 29-28 heading into the locker room.
A.J. Merriweather’s put-back in the closing seconds of the third quarter left the Bucketneers on top 42-41 heading into the fourth quarter.
Neither team led by more than five points.