Reprinted from yesterday's late edition.
L.J. Pipkin and Joe Brawner emerged from the long shadow of James (The Bird) Sparrow Friday night as they carried North Carolina A&T past Howard, 94-85, in double overtime at overflowing Burr Gymnasium.
Sparrow, who scored 23 points, fouled out with four minutes left in the first overtime and Howard ahead, 73-71. The Aggies seemed to be in deep trouble.
But the 6-foot-9 Pipkin, whom the A&T coach calls "the tallest natural guard in the country," and the blazing 5-11 Brawner, out of Spingarn High took over.
Howard, 5-1 in the MEAC and a half-game behind A&T, felt like kicking itself in defeat. The Bison, 11-4 overall, led for all but 10 seconds of regulation time.
Howard led, 67-63, and had the ball in a deep freeze with a 2:30 to play. But the Bison turned the ball over the last three times they touched it in regulation.
"We were tied (67-67) and working for the last shot," said guard Gerald Gaskins, "and they called Lewis Wilson for steping on the sideline. He wasn't even close."
Then A&T worked for the last shot and missed it. The Aggies also missed two open jumpers in the final seconds of the first ovetime.
After 49 minutes of struggle that left the 3,600 fans limp, A&T broke out of an 85-85 tie in the final 1:04.
Gaskins tied it on a 25-foot bomb. Brawner sucked Gaskins into a reaching foul and made one of two free throws. When Gaskins' retaliatory jumper missed, Pipkin rebounded. Pipkin drove, was fouled and made two free throws for an 88-85 margin. There were 50 seconds left.
Howard forced into desperate gunning, was dead.
Two things bedeviled Howard all night - Brawner's sneak aways and Pipkin's perimeter jumpers.
"We must have gotten close to 20 points by releasing a guard (Brawner) out of our 2-3 zone and throwing the bomb to him. Howard's guards were so involved in running their offense and shooting, that they never get back." said A&T coach Gene Littles (from McKinley Tech).
When Brawner was not catching Pipkin bombs for 19 points, Pipkins was dribbling between his legs and giving his cocky facial expressions before throwing in long range howitzers for 20 points.
Howard's inside trio of Gerald Glover (16 points), Mike Nettles (17) and Dorian Dent (19) were once again the heart of the team. But by the second half, when Howard squandered two seven-point leads, they were exhausted.With the 9-6 Sparrow at guard, A&T had a 6-10, 6-9, 6-7 front line that made a rough zone to work around, over or through.
"In a double overtime game, you can never be angry with your kids," said Williamson "There are a dozen plays you could point at that would have turned the tide for either team. I figure A&T is going to lose Saturday night in Baltimore to Morgan State. And we play them at their place next Saturday. This league race is just beginning."
But Burr Gym may not see another night like this. At least 2,000 fans were turned away. One group of 500 broke down three doors, stormed into the gym, filled the aisles and, as Williamson had predicted, "hung from the rafters."
At halftime A&T had the shock of going to its locker room, trailing 36-35, and discovering that thieves had stolen their watches and cash.
"We'll buy them new watches and replace their money," said A&T coach Litles. "But Howard will never get this victory back from us."