The University of the District of Columbia barely survived its first postseason basketball game tonight at Mount St. Mary's.
With seven-foot center Earl Jones on the bench for more than nine minutes of the second half with four fouls, UDC finally overcame Virginia Union, 68-64, in overtime. UDC will face Mount St. Mary's--which beat Virginia State, 90-86, tonight--Saturday night at 9 for the NCAA Division II South Atlantic Region title.
Tonight's UDC game seemed lengthened by extraterrestrial intervention. With the game tied at 58 and five seconds remaining in regulation, UDC got possession after a basket by Virginia Union. Reserve guard Reese Morgan heaved a floor-length pass to forward Michael Britt, who stood unaccountably alone.
Britt dribbled twice from the foul line and soared to put in the game-clinching uncontested layup. But his shot clanged against the underside of the rim and the buzzer sounded.
Afterward Britt, who shared scoring honors with Jones at 17 points apiece, laughed and explained, "I guess the pass was just too good. Reesie was a quarterback in high school and he put it right on me. I couldn't make up my mind whether to dunk it or lay it up." So he did neither.
It was a shocker for the hundreds of UDC followers who set up a thunderous chanting to encourage the Firebirds.
But Jones came on to dominate the overtime.
Jones had gone out of the game with his fourth foul with 17:46 left in regulation. The seven-footer had scored eight points and had been manhandled by Virginia Union's collapsing zone defense. "Coach (Wil Jones) told us to just eat up some time until Slim got back in the game," Britt said.
The center returned with 8:30 left and UDC trailing by a point. On Virginia Union's next possession, he fell while trying to get a rebound. It was ruled charging against Virginia Union. Jones then sank an 18-foot jump shot to put UDC ahead. The Firebirds did not trail again in regulation.
"Did you see him out there?" asked Coach Jones. "He was taking the charges, blocking shots. When they got the ball up, he rejected it." The coach said his center generally plays well when in foul trouble "because he likes to play, so he does things right when he's in foul trouble. He doesn't want to sit on the bench."
Virginia Union, led by 6-9 center Anthony Singleton, who had a game-high 21 points, took the early lead in overtime. Singleton sank a 15-foot turnaround to make it 60-58. Jones missed, and Virginia Union had a chance to go up by four.
Curtis Powell drove the lane and his layup was on target, but as he put it up he crashed into Jones. It was ruled charging, and the basket was disallowed. Jones tied it with an eight-foot jumper from the corner and put UDC up by two points on the next possession with a sterling move--his 10-foot jumper was blocked, but he regained control and made the shot.
Virginia Union ran up court, only to have 5-9 Irving Carter's layup turned aside by Jones.
Kenny Payne, who had 14 points, was fouled bringing the ball up court and sank two free throws to put UDC ahead by the final margin.
If UDC wins Saturday, it will advance to the NCAA Division II quarterfinals at home the following weekend.